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6 Things You May Not Know about Apostle Paul

Apostle PaulI thought I knew him. I’ve followed his ministry. And over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading his writings. But recently, I realized I didn’t know as much about the Apostle Paul as I thought.

While studying Paul’s life for my latest Bible study, I discovered several “new” things about the apostle of grace. Of course they were there all along; I had simply overlooked them. Maybe some will be new to you too.

6 little-known facts about Paul

  1. Paul didn’t jump right into long-term ministry (Galatians 1:13-18) – In my mind, Paul met Jesus on a dusty road, spent three days fasting in Damascus, regained his eyesight, then jumped right into ministry to the Gentiles and never looked back. But a closer examination of Scripture tells a little different story. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote he “went immediately into Arabia (Galatians 1:17).” In fact, he didn’t return to Jerusalem for three years (Galatians 1:18). What did Paul do during all this time in Arabia? Many scholars feel this may have been a spiritual retreat for Paul, a time to reconcile everything he knew from the Old Testament Scriptures with his new reality in Christ. In Arabia, Paul could immerse himself in the reality of his Savior and focus on learning and growing in preparation for ministry.
  2. Paul’s nephew saved his life (Acts 23:12-35) – After Paul’s arrest by a Roman commander in Jerusalem, 40 Jewish men bound themselves in an oath to not eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. The Jewish leaders agreed to help them by petitioning the Roman commander to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The assassins planned to attack Paul during the transfer. But the son of Paul’s sister heard of the plot and reported it to Paul at the Roman barracks. When Paul told a centurion, the Roman commander ordered a detachment of almost 500 guards to move him to Caesarea under the cover of night.
  3. Saul’s name was not changed to Paul (Acts 13:6-9)– During the biblical account of Paul’s first missionary journey, Luke writes: “Then Saul, who was also called Paul…” (Acts 13:9). From this point forward, Luke only refers to the apostle as “Paul.” This shift does not reflect a name change, as has often been said, but rather a conscious decision on Paul’s part to use a name he already had. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he would have been given three names at birth. The third – Paul’s Latin name – was a better fit for the predominately Roman environment. “Saul the Pharisee” chose to be known as “Paul, citizen of Rome.”
  4. God gave Paul more than he could handle (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) – Paul and his companions suffered such extreme pressure during a particular situation in Asia they “despaired even of life.” Scholars aren’t sure what event Paul referred to in these verses, but it was a situation so dire Paul believed he and his companions might die. He saw no way out of the life-threatening situation. And indeed, without God’s miraculous intervention, they would have perished. When all human hope was lost God delivered them by His grace through the prayers of the believers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
  5. Paul visited heaven before his death (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) – God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven during his early years as a believer, perhaps during his time of spiritual retreat in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). Paul didn’t know if he had been physically transported or was there in spirit. But he saw and heard “inexpressible things.” Pride would be the natural sinful response to an experience like this, but pride and conceit have no place in God’s servant. Therefore, God allowed something into Paul’s life to foster humility – a “thorn of the flesh.”
  6. Paul felt deserted by everyone but God (2 Timothy 4:9-18) – Throughout Paul’s ministry he suffered trials and persecution for the sake of Christ. He was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and betrayed. He often went without food, sleep, and shelter. During his Roman imprisonment, he also felt alone with no other person to support or defend him. Demas left him because he loved the world. Alexander did him “a great deal of harm.” Yet through it all, the Lord stood with him. Paul was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence.

I would love to sit down with Paul and hear all his stories, find out all those things not recorded in Scripture. Perhaps he would recount all the Gospel victories and tell me more about the suffering he endured for the name of Christ. Pain and struggle may have marked his life, but God’s lavish grace sustained him every moment.

Was one of these facts about Paul new to you? If so, which one? Do you know any other little-known facts about Paul?

This article first appeared on www.Crosswalk.com on July 15, 2016.

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Grace with No Reservations

imageI’ve experienced it several times – the miracle in the Starbucks’ drive-thru line. That thrilling experience when you order your drink, pull around to the window, and the barista announces that the person in front of you paid for your coffee.

My first reaction is always “Wow! That’s awesome!” Then almost as quickly I think, “Man, I should have ordered a venti!” (That means “extra large” in Starbuckese!)

My gratitude initially fosters a desire to buy the coffee for the person behind me. But before I pull out my wallet, I check out the vehicle behind me to make sure it’s not a 12-passenger van carrying a high school basketball team. I mean, I want to pass along the blessing, but there are limits.

Sometimes we feel that way about sharing God’s grace. We want to actively love others and submit to them out of reverence for Christ. But some people don’t deserve it. And others can’t do anything for me. Oh, wait… that’s the point of grace.

By definition, “grace” means being kind to those who don’t deserve it. To give and do without any expectation that the other person will reciprocate. To show kindness to those who have hurt us and meet the needs of those who will never be able to help us in return.

Yet sometimes we are stingy or choosy with the kindness God has freely given us. As believers, we have an abundant supply of His grace. God has given us more than we need; yet sometimes we hoard it. Sometimes we are stingy or choosy with God’s lavish grace, withholding it from those who desperately need it.

We may withhold kind words or actions from someone who has hurt us. Or we may take a meal to a sick friend hoping they will do the same for us in our time of need. While that expectation of reciprocation may not be our primary motivation, it is often still there, lurking in the back of our minds. Our sinful nature qualifies our grace.

Jesus constantly extended grace to those who could give Him nothing in return – the orphan, the prisoner, the widow, the homeless, the invalid, the dying, the sinner. He healed, He touched, He gave. The One “who came from the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) extended grace with no expectations. And Jesus calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Who are the “needy” people right around you – neighbors, friends, family members, church members? In what ways are you extending grace with no expectation of return?

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Online Bible Study and a Giveaway!

I might be just a little – or a lot – excited! Here’s the big news: The Mom Initiative will be using my newly released book, “Lavish Grace” , as their fall online Bible study!

online bible study

A few Details about this Online Bible Study

All the details are posted today at TheMomInitiative.com, but here are the basics. The TMI online Bible study, which begins Monday, September 19 and continues through October 31, is designed with you in mind. We have built in four levels of involvement, so you can participate as much or as little as you are able.

  1. Brief weekly video and short blog lesson by one of the TMI team here on TMI each Monday, beginning September 19
  2. Deeper printable PDF lesson available in the Monday post
  3. Go deeper still by purchasing and using the Lavish Grace Bible study book (Available now in print and ebook formats at Amazon, CBD, New Hope Publishers)
  4. Join us throughout the week for ongoing discussion and practical application in the closed Facebook study group.

WorldCraft apronPLUS… each Saturday we will share a “Let’s Say Grace” recipe created just for the TMI study. And to celebrate the fall study, TMI is giving away a pair of Mother/Daughter aprons donated by WorldCrafts! Check out the TMI post to find out how to enter.

 

 

Find out more about Lavish Grace

Not sure this particular study is for you? Find out more about it now:

Visit The Mom Initiative now to find out more about the online study and enter the giveaway for a chance to win the Mother/Daughter aprons!

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“Lavish Grace” Resources, Freebies, Printables

Lavish Grace freebiesThank you for helping me celebrate the release of my new Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” I want to wrap up the celebration today with a collection of all the resources, freebies, printables and more I shared with you throughout the month of August. So in case you missed anything along the way, you will find it right here!

Free 3-Week Bible Reading Plan

Do you need a fresh awareness of God’s lavish grace? This plan will help you recognize, rest in, and share the glorious grace of God. (This plan is also a supplemental resource for Kathy’s 9-week Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” Each week of the reading plan corresponds to the 3 sections of the study. Use it with the study or on its own.) Here’s the printable PDF!

Free “Lavish Grace” Coloring Sheets

Lavish Grace coloring sheet

Lavish Grace Coloring Sheet

Lavish Grace coloring sheet

 

 

 

 

 

These beautiful coloring sheets were the focus of three great giveaways during August. It’s too late to enter the contest, but you can still enjoy the relaxing, creative fun of coloring and reflecting on the colorful, lavish grace of God! Print, color, and share!

Printable “Let’s Say Grace” Recipes

recipe

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Cups

My sister-in-law, Cindy Head, is an amazing cook, so I asked her to help us spice up last week’s Facebook launch party with a few party food recipes. (If you missed the party, you can still catch all the videos, conversations, and fun here.) I added to the recipes to create 4 printables that include the recipe, Scripture verse, and a “grace” to pray. Enjoy!

“Lavish Grace” Necklace

Lavish Grace necklaceThis is the only thing in this post that isn’t free. But it’s well worth the $19! When I saw Sheila Dresbach’s jewelry designs at Dandelions in December, I knew she should be the one to create this tangible reminder of God’s constant, lavish grace. I’ve been wearing mine almost every day! Please check out this necklace and the rest of Sheila’s beautiful jewelry on her Etsy store!

“Lavish Grace” Blog Posts

Encouragement, practical advice, and spiritual challenges filled August’s blog posts. Here’s a list in case you missed one or would like to review:

Find Out More about “Lavish Grace”

Are you embracing the abundant, grace-filled life God offers? Or have you underestimated His lavish grace? God’s lavish grace is more than sufficient for any day and every day of your life. Find out more in this 9-week Bible study journey with the apostle Paul.

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Less than a Gracious Witness

Gracious witnessI struggle with being the gracious witness God desires. One Tuesday morning years ago, I had a “traffic incident” on my way to lead ladies’ Bible study. I started the drive frustrated with myself because I left the house late. Then two stoplights from my destination, the driver of the only car in front of me sat through the green light without moving. While busily chatting with her passenger, she missed the opportunity to turn left. I “patiently” waited behind her for the next green light.

When the light changed to green again, she continued to chat, but failed to drive. So I hit my horn. And no, not a friendly, quick toot. It was a long, irritated blast. She slowly began to move and we both barely made it through the intersection before the light changed again.

As soon as I had the chance, I darted around her, tossing back one of those icy glares as I sped by. I approached the last light and got in the right lane to make my turn. I glanced in the rear view mirror. “Distracted Driver” was also in the turn lane. One block from church, a horrible possibility hit me. What if Distracted Driver was also headed to my church?

A community group also met in our church building on Tuesday mornings. She would see me go in and know I was one of those “Christian” women. I slowed to make the turn into the church parking lot. Another furtive glance in the rearview confirmed my fear. Distract Driver was turning too. I quickly scooted into the one remaining parking spot close to the doors and she made her way further down the lot. I ducked inside the building and into my classroom before she had time to get her seat belt unfastened.

The Holy Spirit swiftly convicted me. Instead of extending grace, I acted with impatience and anger. My behavior negatively impacted the name of Jesus. Instead of sharing the grace of Christ that day, I was just another example of a graceless Christian.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV

Grace lays downGod woos people to Himself with grace. Yet far too often our witness is anything but gracious. Sometimes our ungracious behavior reflects poorly on Jesus. Sometimes, our verbal witness lacks grace. And still other times our spiritual conversations simply fail to connect with the hearer.

Christians have experienced God’s grace in abundance yet sometimes we fail to share the Gospel of grace in a gracious way. God’s Word encourages us to be graceful witnesses, to behave and speak in ways that connect with others and honor Jesus.

What specific changes can you make in your behavior or speech to be a more gracious witness?

Other posts about being a person of grace in a lost world:

Want to learn more about being a person of grace? Particularly being a gracious witness? This post is adapted from Kathy’s new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships – explores what the Bible says about being a channel of God’s grace to others. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

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Clinging to Grace

Clinging to GraceJust about this time last year, I lost my precious sister-friend Janet. In 2008, Janet was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare form of leukemia. She participated in a number of clinical trials. She endured regular chemo. She was in and out of the hospital, increasingly so the last couple of years of her life. Although Janet had days of discouragement and days she wanted to give up, those days were the exception. Overall, Janet clung tight to God and shared Jesus with everyone who would listen.

In the last few weeks of her life, the doctors also treated Janet for a fungal infection in her lungs.The aggressive treatment required almost daily trips to the hospital for intravenous medications. Many of Janet’s friends, including me, pitched in to help her husband with the hospital trips, which often took all day. I wanted to help and encourage her, but she blessed me instead.

Thanksgiving 1996

Thanksgiving 1996

On one trip, the lab tech struggled to get the blood she needed for testing from the port in Janet’s arm. Getting it from another vein would have been an ordeal. Janet naturally went straight to prayer. Not silent prayer, but out loud, asking God to intervene. At first, I worried about how the lab tech would respond, but when she began to pray with Janet, I joined in too. Within moments the blood was flowing and the three of us were singing a praise chorus.

On another day, during yet another intravenous treatment, I walked with Janet down the hallway to the bathroom, as she pushed the IV pole ahead of her. I stood outside the bathroom door, just in case she needed anything. Almost immediately I heard her voice. It sounded like conversation, not distress, but I still asked her if she was okay. She quickly replied, “Oh, yes. I’m just talking to Jesus.”

The Howards & The Valentines - Thanksgiving 2014God used the crucible of this terrible illness to refine Janet’s faith and foster total dependency on Him. Her relationship with Jesus was intimate and real and very tangible. Anyone she came into contact with could feel it, even if they didn’t understand it. And she never hesitated to tell others the source of her strength.

Janet’s journey greatly impacted me. I watched her faith grow increasingly stronger even as her body grew weaker. She leaned on God every moment. She gave Him praise for everything, big and small. She never hesitated to talk about Jesus with the medical personnel, hospital employees, and other patients. Her trust in God and her love for Jesus were obvious. Her physical weakness revealed the strength and grace of God.

God’s Grace is Sufficient and Powerful

Janet’s life exemplified the sufficiency and power of God’s grace. Her “weakness” constantly revealed God’s glory and strength. She gave God the glory and praised the name of Jesus every step of the way. In small victories and massive setbacks, she stood firm, unshakeable in her resolve to hold tight to her Savior. Janet’s life – and death – pointed others to the grace and glory of God. And I had a front row seat.

Has there ever been a time in your life when God worked through a trial or difficulty to point others to Jesus? If so, describe it.

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You are Invited to Celebrate Grace

I’m throwing a party and you are invited. We are going to celebrate grace!

Please join me this Thursday, August 25th from 7-9pm for the official launch of my newest Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” There will be food (and I’m sharing the recipes!), videos, giveaways, and lots more.

Facebook party

A few friends and I will be hanging out at my house and you can join us via the event page on Facebook. Here’s how it works:

  1. Follow this link to RSVP
  2. Mark your calendar for Thursday, August 25 at 7pm
  3. Invite a few friends to join you!
  4. On Thursday at 7pm grab your smart phone, tablet, or laptop and “show up” to the party
  5. Have fun! Here’s some of what you’ll be able to do:

Lavish Grace necklace

  • Print the recipes we share.
  • Join in the “grace discussions.”
  • Be the first to correctly answer the giveaway questions to win a Lavish Grace necklace! One will be given away every half hour!
  • Interact with the live videos.

Don’t miss any of the fun! Will you come celebrate grace with me?

 

 

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3 Ways God Gives Grace in Trials

Grace in trialsGod does not remove all the struggles and pain in our lives but He does overflow His grace in trials so we can stand  firm and keep going. I know this is true because His Word teaches it. And I have experienced it myself.

I woke in the middle of the night and the rawness of it all washed over me again. Our family faced a heart-breaking situation. I tried to fix it, but it seemed hopeless. I knew sleep would not come easily. I had no words left for prayer. I was prayed out.

Anxiety welled up and I reached for God. The Holy Spirit began to bring Scriptures to mind, so I began to “pray” them. Soon peace started to push out the anxiety until it was gone. Somewhere in the first chapter of 1 Peter I drifted off to sleep.

At the time, I was away from home staying with my oldest daughter. My grandson was just a few days old and I was helping out. The next morning, Kelley reported on how Micah slept the night before. Then almost as an afterthought she added, “The second time I came back to bed, Jeremy asked me to pray with him. He felt strongly we should pray for you right then.”

“What time was that?” I asked.

“It was about 3:15, 3:20,” Kelley replied.

That was the same time I lay awake in bed with anxiety threatening to take over. I know because I had looked at my phone. God did not fix the situation like I’d hoped, but He was not idle. He saw my need and He cared. He poured out His grace through the heart of my son-in-law and gave me the peace and strength to keep going.

Sometimes God intervenes in our trials in physical ways. He heals. He frees. He delivers. But He does not always. Often God works in far more miraculous ways. He pours out His grace to cover our soul needs.

God physically delivered the apostle Paul many times, like the release from prison shackles in Philippi. But it wasn’t those physical rescues Paul marveled over. No, Paul preached passionately about the lavish, unbounded grace of God poured out to sustain him in the midst of his trials.

Sometimes God allows struggles and difficulties to remain in our lives because He is using them to work out His spiritual and eternal purposes. He works in and through our trials to spiritually conform us to the image of Christ and to refine our faith and character.

Yet in the midst of those trials – while His “soul work” is being accomplished – God extends His grace to comfort, encourage, strengthen, and provide.

3 Ways God Extends Grace in Trials

  1. Presence – God may not change our difficult circumstances, but He will be with us. He will draw us close to His side through the presence of His Spirit to encourage, comfort, and console. He will ease our pain and grief through the fellowship of His people. He will even later use that experience to comfort others. Praise be to the God of all comfort! (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.)
  2. Power – When we have no strength to go on, God has more than enough. Acknowledge your need to God and accept His strength. Allow Him to push out any pride and self-sufficiency and make room for the abundant flow of God’s power. What we lack in our weakness, God will provide by His grace. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.)
  3. Provision – Even if God doesn’t change our basic circumstances, He still meets our needs in the midst of them. Sometimes He makes physical provision. Sometimes He protects us from additional difficulty. But all the time, He is our Helper and Provider. (See 2 Corinthians 1:10-11.)

God may not always save the job, heal the illness, or calm the storm. But He will always give you an anchor of grace to hold you securely to the Solid Rock while the storm rages. God may not remove your difficult circumstances, but He will graciously give you everything you need to keep going.

In what ways have you experienced God’s grace in past trials? How can you look for His grace in your current struggle?

This post is part of a month-long emphasis on grace to celebrate the release of Kathy’s newest Bible study “Lavish Grace.” Here are a few ways you can join in the celebration!

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10 Ways to Foster Gracious Speech

Gracious speechGracious speech has the power to heal, build up, and encourage. But, oh, the tongue is hard to tame! Have you ever regretted something you said? I certainly have!

Years ago, when our young family lived in Wyoming, my parents regularly came all the way from Louisiana to visit us. Just before one such visit, we purchased a dining table and chairs for a long-empty breakfast area. I couldn’t wait to show off the new furniture.

The first time we gathered around the table, Mom pulled out her chair and sat. As she scooted forward, a leg of the chair caught in the groove between two tiles. The leg snapped off, the chair tilted, and my mother hit the floor. Hard.

My immediate reaction was not words of grace. Oh, no. “You broke my chair!” is what came out of my mouth. Not, “Are you alright?!” or “Let me help you!”

My mother looked so hurt. Not physically; the tumble wasn’t bad. But I terribly hurt her feelings. My quick words revealed what was in my heart – I cared far too much about material things. My first thought had been for the chair, not my mother. And my thoughtless words wounded her.

The apostle Paul knew our words have the power to build up or tear down. In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he tells them – and us – exactly what effect our speech should and should not have on others.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29, KJV

First, our speech should not “corrupt.” Corrupt speech is far more than curse words. Corrupt speech is graceless speech. Corrupt speech tears down, deflates. Whenever we speak corrupt words to our spouse, our child, our coworker, or friend, they deflate like a beach ball full of holes.

Can you see them deflate? Any words not wholesome or beneficial tear them down emotionally and spiritually. Little by little the air goes out. Sadly, I’ve seen my own words have that effect on other people.

Second, our speech should “benefit” or “minister grace” to others. Once again, picture that limp, floppy beach ball. What happens when you blow air into it? That’s exactly how gracious words affect another person. Like air blown into a deflated beach ball, good and edifying words will encourage and build up an individual, helping them to reach their full potential in Christ.

Even when we long for our words to give grace to others, sometimes things break down between our desire and the words that flow out of our mouths. Sadly, our words will betray us, revealing the junk we have hidden in our hearts. Things like insecurity, hurt, unresolved anger, selfishness, and pride produce words that wound, tear down, and corrupt.

Would you like your words to consistently encourage, build up, and give grace to others?

10 Ways To Foster Gracious Speech

1. Regularly reflect on the unbounded grace God has lavished on us.
2. Remember God will hold us accountable for every word we speak (Matthew 12:36).
3. Constantly check our hearts for sinful attitudes and motivations. (See Matthew12:34-36.)
4. Ask God to heal old hurts, soothe anger, and humble pride.
5. Refuse to use “corrupt” speech – any words that wound, discourage, or tear down.
6. Commit to using “good” words – kind and gracious words that build up and encourage.
7. Find something positive with which to begin and end every conversation.
8. Don’t waste time talking about things that can’t be changed.
9. Focus on the other person. Ask questions about them and their feelings.
10. Exercise self-control. Sometimes the most gracious thing to say is nothing.

With God’s grace flowing through us, our words can be tools of grace God uses to build up, encourage, and edify.

When was the last time your noticed the power of your words to either wound of give grace? What was the result?

This post is part of a month-long emphasis on grace to celebrate the release of Kathy’s newest Bible study “Lavish Grace.” Here are a few ways you can join in the celebration!

 

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Please Pass the Grace

Pass the GraceHave you ever squirted hand cream into your hand from a tube, only to have far more plop out than you could ever work into your skin? If you’re like me, after you’ve rubbed some into your hands – and elbows – you look for a friend or two with whom to share the abundance. Hand cream for everyone!

God’s grace is like that hand cream. He gives His children more than we could possibly use ourselves. Here’s how the apostle Paul describes the abundance of God’s grace in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8a, NIV

My favorite word Paul used to describe the nature of God’s grace is found right here in the eighth verse of the first chapter of Ephesians. “Lavished.” God is not stingy with His grace! He lavishes it on His children.

According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, the Greek word translated as “lavish” in the NIV and “abounded” in the KJV means “to abound, be in abundance, overflow.” God doesn’t give us just enough grace to get by. He doesn’t even give us a “generous” amount.

He gives us grace in such abundance we cannot hold it all. It overflows our ability to contain it. It abundantly floods our lives and spills out all around.

Praise God for this abundance of grace! More than we need. More than we can use for ourselves. Yet often we hoard His grace, refusing to share it. How could we, who’ve received such glorious, undeserved grace, dare withhold it from others?

God longs for us to be channels of His unbounded grace, not just stagnant pools. He lavishes us with His grace so we can generously share it in word and deed with those around us. Let us reflect on the grace God freely pours out on us so we can in turn be people of grace. Lavish, abundant, unbounded grace flowing from the heart of God, through us, to others. Please pass the grace!

What is one specific and practical way you can be a channel of God’s grace today?

This post is part of a month-long emphasis on grace to celebrate the release of Kathy’s newest Bible study “Lavish Grace.” Here are a few ways you can join in the celebration!

 

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