“Be safe,” uncounted angels urged, and watched with apprehension as the One who made them want to sing stepped down through light years and past planets to a home in Mary’s silent womb. It was the first time they had ever been without His joy. How would His strange descent to live among the broken, tragic, helpless race of humans—letting Himself be born as one of them—affect the ceaseless happiness of heaven?
 
And so they practiced for nine months, suggesting harmonies so rich and descants they had never tried, to craft a song—the perfect song—for that first night He would appear, an infant wrapped in birthing bands. They found from months of searching just the audience they wanted—sleepy shepherds in the fields—who never had heard music of that quality or kind.
 
And when the birth had happened, when months of pent-up chorusing became unstoppably joyous, they burst forth on the hills near Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).
 
Grace was always heaven’s plan: peace and goodwill are what our God has always offered us. Jesus, “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev 13:8), was first chorused to a flock of shepherds. And the joy of those who sang—and the joy of those who heard—has set our world in motion with the rhythms of His grace.
 
Be listening for the music as you celebrate His birth. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
If everything is owed to us; if every stream should flow toward us; if we imagine we must regularly be served—there will be nothing to be thankful for. And we will go our careless way to dominate, control, abuse.
 
But if our lives are really gifts; if every breath is one more grace, then we are not what we achieve, but actually, the sum of all that’s given us.
 
And we grow grateful for things great and small—for vast, majestic sunsets and for sweet warblers singing in the yard. We see the gift in toddlers’ smiles, and relish simple, joyful laughter. We savor food, remembering the many hands who served and toiled to bring this gift to us. We turn to colleagues and to friends with words that warm them, fill their hearts: “Thank you for the gift you are. I am so blessed to walk with you.”
 
And if we live in faith, we turn to God and say from what is deepest in our lives—"Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise You” (Psa 51:15). “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me” (Psa 103:2).
 
All gratitude is born in grace, and sees the world through grace-filled eyes. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
 
Embrace what has been given you. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
Where is God when it hurts?
 
The question is painfully familiar. In every moment when we suffer, we raise our tearful eyes to heaven and ask what all this pain accomplishes.
 
Will warring nations come to peace because the children starve? Not likely. Will all the daily indignities of living without water and without wealth adjust the fairness of the planet? Not on any planet we know. Will sleepless nights and searing pain ensure some future happiness? There are no guarantees.
 
And does God know how much we hurt when bodies ache and hopes fall flat? “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Heb 2:14).
 
Jesus is God’s answer to the riddle of our pain. The One who made the universe came down to walk our roads and eat our food and feel our loss and cry our tears. He stands beside us; with us; on our side. Grace is God’s presence in our loneliness.
 
“Whoever has the Son has life” (I John 5:12). Meaning will yet rise from all this broken ground.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
Safe.
 
Perhaps you mean a metal-banded box, a vault—a walk-in, high-tech cave where wealth is stored.
Perhaps you mean a spot on earth where threats are temporarily gone, where you can stretch out on the grass, fearing neither man nor beast.
 
Perhaps you mean a chosen friend, a spouse—a person who will hear your deepest hurts and never leave you by yourself.
 
You surely mean the covenanted God who is far bigger than our brokenness, our sin—who gathers up and fathers out to all who choose His open arms. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him” (Psa 103: 12-13).
 
For all His untamed love and unchecked power, our God is deeply and forever safe. “He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
 
Come home to safe. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
Beyond the screaming headlines; beneath the pundits’ withering analysis; above the daily outrage of our inhumanity to each other, there is a ceaseless broadcast of good news that outlasts every news cycle.
 
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Unlike so much we count as “news,” there’s nothing fake about it. No inflated facts or twisted meanings here: this is the calm, eternal truth about a God who won’t stop loving us, even when we’re most unlovable.
 
And on that day when this amazing news grabs your attention like headlines set in four-inch type, it will bring meaning, warmth, clear light and color like no blog or newsfeed ever has.
 
You are loved, and not just when your hair is combed and you’ve been living in between the lines. You are cherished by the God who welcomes prodigals back home, who goes in search of wayward sheep, whose “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).
 
Grace is the news we cannot live without. Write it somewhere on your walls today.
 
And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
The first time we forgive a galling wound, we seem all noble, elevated, full of moral worth. Given how superior we feel, forgiveness seems its own reward.
 
The second, third, and fourth occasions remind us that forgiveness doesn’t always change the one who angers or offends us. The callous and insensitive may continue just as they were.
 
About the seventh time, we feel like fools—like 12-year-olds who discover Santa Claus was never real. Why should we keep forgiving when wounding doesn’t stop? Isn’t there a cut-off point when injuries continue? “‘No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!’” (Matt 18:22).
 
Forgiveness isn’t asked of us so we may feel wise and worthy. Forgiveness is cross-bearing, following Jesus deep into the world’s pain because this is the way God loves, even for the stony and hard-hearted. How many of us would be in grace if Heaven had drawn the line at seven, and left us to our fate thereafter?
 
The apostle Paul, who was so much forgiven and thus called to forgive so much, once wrote: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32).
 
Keep praying for the grace to keep forgiving. And stay in it. -Bill Knott
“This is my faith,” we proudly say, and point to doctrines, dogma, sacred books. “These I believe,” we chorus as we sit in church, surrounded by the arsenal of arguments built up to counter unbelief.
 
But what is faith at 3:00 a.m. when worries gather in the dark like spiders on the ceiling? What is our trust when feverish loved ones groan and fret, and we feel helpless to relieve their pain?
 
The heart of faith is trusting in God’s unrelenting love, much more than lining up beliefs or getting answers to our prayers. To be assured of His affection—to know His hand on us, His salve for all our wounds, His quiet but all-kindly grace—this is the bond that makes faith powerful and real. “Be sure of this,” Jesus says. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Christ is never absent.
 
The truths we teach are, at their best, descriptions of our trust in grace. The love we never earned and don’t deserve is lavished on us just because God’s heart is love.
 
When we trust deeply, we speak well of God: we tell God’s truth. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
You know the moment—that instant when your heart hurts terribly from loss or grief. The air seems heavy, hard to breathe. Your mind crawls backward in the dark.
 
And blessedly, you may also know that moment when a wise friend, often without words, reaches out to hold you, fold you while you grieve.
 
That grip is grace, made real because the love and reassurance are real. It doesn’t yield in fine-tuned explanations or hang on eloquence. Sometimes the kindest comfort is the silence shared with one who will not let you go.
 
At its most basic level, the grace of God does not rely on words. The psalmist sang: “You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them” (Ps 40.5). The fact of Jesus, sent to us before He learned to speak a word, is proof enough that grace is first companionship—the knowledge that we’re never left alone, abandoned, or unloved. The wordless Word of God gave witness of the Father’s love before He ever preached or taught or healed our wounds.
 
“He Himself was before all things. And He holds all things together” (Col 1:17)—including us.
 
Stay where you’re loved. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
We measure almost everything in life by big moments: “The day I got married.” “The week I started the new job.” “That instant on my first skydive when I jumped from the plane.”
 
Memorable as they are, big moments aren’t the real substance of our lives. It’s years of staying married that add value; the honest work that yields satisfaction month by month; the friends who walk with us across the years—who share the “ordinary” days.
 
The life of faith is like that too. It’s the dailiness of prayer that builds our joy and stamina—the hours of deep openness when “the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts” (Rom 5:5). Trust is built by time and distance shared. A thousand miles of undramatic journeys with Jesus are worth far more than brilliant, blazing moments.
 
“I have fought the good fight,” the apostle Paul told us. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). Paul knew that there is grace at every marker, every signpost, every crossroad.
 
Keep running—or walking—with Jesus today. And stay in grace.
 

 

September 30, 2021

UNSTOPPABLE (October 01, 2021)

“God is always disappointed with me.”
 
It’s the mumbled sentiment of many who aspire to a higher, wiser life. We know our failings far too well: we tell half-truths or flat-out lies; we use our power to dominate the weak; we abuse our bodies, as if they really were our own.
 
And we assume that God is always studying the gap between His law and our performance. Even on our best days, we don’t reach our own half-hearted expectations, never mind His call to holy living. And so we think our failings keep Him at long distance—continually frustrated with us.
 
But the gospel says God loves us differently. “ For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Even when we lapse into our habits of shame and self-loathing, His attitude toward us remains unchanged: “God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17).
 
“By grace”—by God’s unyielding affection for you—"you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).
 
You cannot earn the Father’s love. You cannot lose the Father’s love.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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