“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
Sometimes we have to choose to remember the good things
.
So much of daily life is, as we say, “taken for granted.” We assume when we go to bed that our eyes will open in the morning. We don’t worry whether the car will start in the morning. We live our seasons believing there will be enough sun and rain to grow the grass and water the trees. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
 
But the Word of God urges us to actively remember that none of these things is guaranteed: each is the Father’s loving gift. When our happiness increases, His joy overflows. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” the psalmist reminds himself, “and do not forget all His benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Psalm 103 2-4).
 
It’s easy to take even amazing things for granted—like forgiveness, and healing, and grace. And while He is no less God whether we remember Him or forget His goodness, the choice to celebrate His consistent kindness opens the door to abundant living.
 
God is both very great and very good. His power—His rulership—is matched with tenderness and vast affection for us. Take what He has granted. Choose gratitude.
 
And stay in grace.
“Love your enemies.”
 
It’s one of Jesus’ best-known statements—and one of the most misunderstood. The mere mention of those who hurt us, slandered us, or victimized us uncovers all our buried helplessness and anger. Our memories work too well: we can’t summon the will to overlook the painful past. The thought of one day loving those who wounded us seems just another of faith’s impossibilities.
 
And so we need a power greater than ourselves—which is just what we have received: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Only the gift of supernatural grace—the kind the Father has shown to us “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:8)—can ever move us to reimagine our enemies as friends: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).
 
Our enemies are just as fully loved by God as we are. When we receive His gift of love, we learn, in time, to gift it on to them. Grace is this angry world’s best hope for healing.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
It’s the fiercest rule of our culture: the greater the injury—the deeper the wound—the less likely that forgiveness will ever—ever—be offered.
 
When a friend forgets a lunch appointment or a colleague fails to meet a crucial deadline, we find a grudging grace to overlook the infraction. But if the angry words are public; if the damage done is measured in broken buildings or broken bones, our interest in forgiveness disappears.
 
We are so fortunate that God’s ways aren’t like ours. According to the Scriptures, we’re all complicit in the greatest injury to God the world has ever devised—the crucifixion of His Son. It was our sins—large and small, deliberate and impulsive—that whipped and beat Him, drove the nails, and pushed that thorny crown on Him. We mocked and taunted Him as He hung dying.
 
And yet, “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). Amazingly, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).
 
Forgiveness flows from God’s amazing grace. We first receive it; then practice it; then glory in it, for we are saved by it.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
When we add up all our failings; when we see how frequently we fall, it seems we’ll never find the exit to this sad amusement ride. Our angers still routinely flare; our pride leaps higher day by day; our self-absorption is a carousel of serving just ourselves. The happiness we thought we’d find—in being kinder, wiser, gentler, free—feels always, always out of reach. We circle ‘round and ‘round: there is no merry to this ride.
 
We need an end to what we’ve been. With the apostle Paul we cry, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Rom 7:24).
 
To all who hope for better things, the gospel speaks with clarity: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Rom 3:23-24).
 
Our past need not predict our future: grace abounds at every turn. “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Heb 4:15-16).
 
Your life can change. Your hope will grow.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
At the heart of why we struggle to understand the “otherness” of God is our assumption that He must be, in some sense, just a grander and more powerful version of us.
 
If we’re preoccupied with tomorrow, God must think of nothing else, for He controls tomorrow. If we’re sorrowful or angry when people disappoint us, God’s indignation must be multiples of ours. Because we find it hard to forgive, we think that He forgives reluctantly, and only when petitioned.
 
But God loves differently. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isa 55:8). In the heart of God there’s an unquenchable affection for us, even when we’re anxious, even when we’re angry, even when we stumble at forgiving—or believing we’ve been forgiven. “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5).
 
We know no one who loves like God—who will not be distracted and cannot be dissuaded from loving us, embracing us. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
 
We’ll never comprehend such grace. But we can welcome it; rejoice in it; be warmed by it.
 
And stay in it. -Bill Knott
Ask any skilled musician, and they’ll tell you everything begins with practice.
 
Behind the brilliant concert hall performance or the music video that goes viral lie a hundred—or a thousand—hours of tedious and undramatic practice. Cognitive skill, muscle memory, an adroit sense of timing, and a touch of interpretive expression meld, at last, into a moment that can soothe or challenge, inspire or amaze.
 
We practice who we want to be, even though on every day, our practice isn’t perfect. If we rehearse our injuries—the snubs we felt; the spite endured; the untrue things that made us weep—we build the tuneless selves that amplify the world’s dirge.
 
And if, through grace, we practice peace; if we rehearse transparency and love, the song of Moses and the Lamb becomes the music of our lives (Rev 15:3). We sing with those who celebrate; we comfort those who mourn a loss. We pass the trifling goal of sounding good, and actually start doing good. The grace that filled our dark with song now stirs deep hope for those who need a melody.
 
So practice gentleness and joy. Rehearse how Jesus rescued you—from sin and from yourself. Let kindness be the memory of your voice. Ten thousand ears will bless you.
 
And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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