When we were kids, each walk became a race; each math assignment launched a competition; every recital was a place to prove our mastery. Half of us, on any day, were losers of some kind—in the race to the mailbox; in the quest to get the better grade; in the hope to have one shining moment when we were proclaimed the best. And so we arrive at mid-life with a shelf half-full of trophies and an aching sense that we have lost more than some rounds of golf and afternoons of tennis.  We spend the first half of our lives turning friends into competitors, and spend the last half trying to reverse that process.  Winning may be everything, but everything on many days can feel remarkably like nothing. Grace offers us a different way—a way to run with others, not against them; a way to play for joy and not for triumph.  There are no losers in this race, except for those who will not enter. The apostle Paul, as tough a man as ever walked the planet, reminded us how all may share the final victory:  “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” Grace crowds the finish line with millions of co-winners.  And the Lord, who judges everyone, is delighted with the outcome. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

 

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Someone has said, “Guilt is the great equalizer of the world.”  Whether we are leaders in society or live quietly out of sight, we know the deep and inescapable voice of conscience, calling us to account for things everybody knows, and things nobody knows.  Beneath our calm exteriors, we struggle with ourselves for missing the mark, breaking the law, violating the expectations God has of us, and we have of ourselves. Unless we bring our guilt to God, it leads to countless dangerous behaviors.  We multiply offenses, hoping to somehow numb our sense of being misaligned.  We turn our guilt to anger—at others, at situations, at ourselves.  We try to find hard ways to work our way back into favor by doing deeds of charity, reciting familiar prayers, and demanding tough discipline of ourselves. But there’s only one way back to God, and it’s open, free, available on any day—for any fault. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).  In grace, the Father teaches us to trust the only one who never wavered in His faith, never felt a pang of conscience, never needed atonement for Himself.  “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Guilt never was a match for grace, and never, ever will be.  “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). Trade all your guilt for matchless grace.  And stay in it. -Bill Knott

 

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When all the sermons have been heard; when all the books have been re-shelved; when every scholarly debate about who He was has faded into dry obscurity, we still have stories that persuade us Jesus understands our inconsistent, bungled lives. He ate with people just like us—from Pharisees to prostitutes. He lavished time on fishermen and mothers. He played with little kids, insisting they should be protected. He welcomed wealthy men to poverty, and told the poor that they were honored in His kingdom. He brought new hope—and life—to grieving families, and held the very ones His culture had rejected. He fed great crowds, and ministered His grace in deeply private moments. We love these stories in those times when what we call our faith seems distant or uncertain. We are the lepers being touched; the wounded ones who reach for healing; the lonely who would gladly spend an hour with Him. When storms break on our boat, we need a Captain, not a theorist. We need that Voice that still speaks peace to waves of worry, and brings us back to terra firma—safe and sound, and saved. There’s grace in every gospel story, including yours. “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (Tit 2:11). Find your story; find your place. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

 

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Some pundits claim the future will be owned by clothiers and cosmeticians, for they know what it takes to make us feel momentarily good about ourselves. In a world mad-obsessed with self-presentation, humans take 35 billion selfies a year, choosing only ones that get the eyebrows tweezed, the lighting kind, the stubble on the beard just right. Ten thousand clothing companies regale us with images designed to help us hide our flaws and showcase youthfulness, our grasp of trends, and mimic what our cultural idols are wearing. But the hardest picture we will take is the candid selfie of our souls—the one we never show to others. Beneath the liners and the layers, behind the tints and overstated plaids, we know the real picture—the place where there are wrinkles on the heart; where tears erase what we have carefully composed. Will I be loved? Is there a purpose to my life? Will someone walk with me through illness, grief, and setbacks on the job? The grace of God sees deeper than our posing—and chooses us just as we are. The Bible says, “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Our flaws, our sins, our brokenness do not deter Him: He knows we are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17)—and yet Christ holds us with an everlasting love that won’t give up, that won’t let go. Share all the outtakes of your life with Him. And stay in grace.

-Bill Knott

 

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We always celebrate first moments, and gladly so—the day that we were born (and every year thereafter!); first day of school; first day at a new job; the day we gave our brokenness to Jesus. These launching points are how we start our stories: everything unfolds from how it all began. But only one day in 365 can be a birthday, and starting school was just the easy part. We learn, in time, the difference between the starting and staying—between beginning and becoming. Thousands of uncelebrated days make up each life, including lives of faith. Remember just as clearly as you can the day you gave your life to Jesus—the day when you responded to His grace and felt the liberating power of sins forgiven, pasts redeemed, and hopes relit. But then go on to see how staying with the Saviour changes all the ordinary hours when nothing glamorous is happening. Does Christ sit with you in the tedium of work, or pace the hallways of your house when little ones need comfort? Does Jesus walk the twisting roads where school and job and money intersect—beside you, near you, even when you’re anxious? The grace once given is still given—day by day, hour by hour, for Jesus is more focused on the journey than on how it all began. “My grace is sufficient for you,” He says, “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:19). It’s in the low points of the road, where darkness reigns and doubts are raining that we learn to trust the promise He still makes: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matt 28:20). Trust the traveling with Jesus. And stay in grace.

-Bill Knott

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A favorite story never grows old. Years later, we still savor words we loved before we even learned to read. The lullaby that someone sang to us is what we sing to fretful children needing sleep. A fragment of a childish prayer stays with us—yes, stays in us—and we whisper it in moments when we’re short on comfort, certainty, or strength. The best things always bear repeating: we never really understand them till they rise in all those “times within the times”—those empty moments when our hearts seek healing, grace, companionship. And so we need to hear the gospel day by day—not only once when God announced our rescue, or on the weekend when we hear a preacher tell us why it’s true. We can’t ever get enough of knowing that we’re loved beyond all measure; held within the Father’s arms; rescued from our past and shame; and pointed to a future filled with joy. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). So speak of grace until the story is your own—so much a part of who you are that you can’t be distinguished from it—until you know, beneath all else, that “nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). Re-tell what love has done for you. And stay in grace.

-Bill Knott

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There’s nothing harder than humility, and nothing we need more. But “Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around Him” (Jn 13:5). It’s still the virtue we want least, for pride—our pride—both subtle and overt, insists on ranking us to others, and even to believers. One loudly says, “I know Him better. Learn from me.” Another says, “I worship Him more truly. Listen when I sing.” A third says, “I love the world better than you do. Do what I do.” And so the basin sits unfilled, the towel dry. We lecture, chide, and condescend because we will not kneel; we will not yield. We miss the keenest lesson of our lives when we insist on privilege and power, disguised as gifts and skills. We’re never more like Jesus—or with Jesus—than when we bow to all who bear His name—and to all who could, by grace, one day be His. The grace that saves us helps us find our knees. The entrance prayer to godly life has been the same for 20 centuries: “Be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In brokenness, we serve the broken. In serving, we ourselves are served. In kindness, we recall how kind the Lord has been to us. So stay in grace.

-Bill Knott

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It usually begins with regret, the uncanny ability to recall—and cringe at—taunting words we said on playgrounds 40 years ago. And then, in night’s small hours when the clock is our companion and our jury, the list of sins remembered grows unbearably long. There is no prosecutor so cutting and so close as a human mind turned inward on itself. Cheating on a test or cheating on a spouse; angry words or angry deeds; vengeance taken or vengeance fervently desired—the catalog of all the things for which we’ve asked forgiveness a hundred, hundred times seems endless and unreconciled. Can God forgive what we remember with such terrible exactness? Is He more kind to us than we are to ourselves? The gospel couldn’t be clearer: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). “As far as the east is from the west, so far He removes our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12). “And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before Him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything” (1 Jn 3:19-20). Grace is God’s answer to regret—His way of helping us forget what He has chosen to forget. When we trust His forgiving words more than our own accusing words, we find the quiet love provides. Believe His kind, redeeming promise. And stay in grace.

-Bill Knott 

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The world is fragile—brittle—now, all hard-edged and reactive. One unsubstantiated rumor can send the markets reeling; provoke a hailstorm of hate; advance—or take down—whole careers before the dawn next breaks. We feel the clutch of ‘things not right’; we mourn the painful fractures to familiar rhythms that brought comfort, meaning, friendships, love. We fear there is no future we may call predictable, as though the world is reinvented every night. The pundits and the social prophets have retreated to their rooms, for who dares to be wrong when reputations hang on sound-bites? To our world, as once to his, the Apostle Paul’s great hymn to Jesus speaks meaning, strength, and clarity: “He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. . . . For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1: 17, 19). The Lord who once created all that is now holds this world with unmatched love and lasting grip. When all things seem to fly apart, He holds. When chaos reigns and peace seems lost, He holds. When hearts are smeared with tears and fears, He holds. Oh yes! the spiritual was right: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Now trust the One who cannot fail. And stay in grace.

-Bill Knott

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And when the final day has come—when fears are past, and tears are dried—when we are gathered, glad and grateful—millions strong—to praise the Lord who died for us, will there be some unknowing soul so self-absorbed that he might say, “So where’s the credit for my deeds?’ “Absurd!” you say, and right you are, for we are either saved by grace or we are never saved at all. The good that love urged us do, the kindness shared from happy hearts, will seem as insignificant as grains of sands beside that sea that looks like glass. Our finest words will trail off to murmured “Hallelujahs.” Our anthems will boast one refrain: “Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” Our sweat and strain deserves no mention, for Jesus “poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa 53:12). The heart that’s filled with gratitude keeps no account of pains endured—or good deeds done. “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8). It’s just a privilege to walk with Him, to learn how grace was tailored to our need, to share the vast, abundant joy of breathing deep and feeling free. So pray for daily self-forgetfulness. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

 

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There is no prosecutor or court who dares to bring against our souls the charges we know to be true. At worst, they see the grander crimes—the times when carelessly we broke the law or took what never could be ours. But in our hearts, we know a catalogue of faults so dark, so cold, that nothing less than warming grace could ever resurrect our hope. And so the work of God is always to speak peace to fearful souls. “Come now,” invites the Father of us all, “let us reason together . . . though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:18). “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:17). This is the good news—yes, the gospel—that we hardly dare to dream is true. There’s finally an answer to the deadly accurate indictment; the sentence that we’ve earned. Against the record of our sins we see the deep, unblemished holiness of Him who gladly offered He would bear the penalty for all we’ve done, would die the death that should be ours. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa 53.5). There’s just one exit from this courtroom—only one. “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1). Embrace the offer grace provides. And stay in it. -Bill Knott

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If we took all our cues from culture and the wind, we would forgive another’s sin just to be rid of him and his unpleasantness. “Executive forgiveness” assumes that we should benefit from the transaction—that moving past our bitterness is the chief reason we forgive the one who wounded us. “Get over toxic feelings keeping you imprisoned,” a hundred self-help books inform us. “Discover liberation in forgiving those who injured you.” And like all harmful substitutes, there’s a gram of truth in what they say. One consequence of offering forgiveness is living forward—and not backward—for we find some joy in dropping all that baggage. But forgiveness as Jesus loved and lived it doesn’t count how we will feel when we forgive. Forgiveness is redeeming someone broken; freeing them from guilt and shame; offering them the chance to live restored and reconciled. It’s love, not self-esteem or self-protection, that makes us lift the load that’s crushing them. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). Forgiveness moves us closer to the wounding ones, as Jesus always moves toward us when we are bitter, broken, acting out. It’s love that calls the prodigal back home, and grace that spreads a banquet of togetherness. Forgive as you have been forgiven. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

 

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