December 29, 2021

Grace Notes

It began as a Sabbath morning text message to 50 friends, most of whom were pastors known to Adventist Review editor Bill Knott. Word quickly spread: the text list grew to 600.

Soon tens of thousands around the globe were receiving an email version of the weekly GraceNote—some of them translating it—and forwarding it to friends who needed encouragement, and those with whom they share their faith.

Today hundreds of thousands of people access GraceNotes each week—by text, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Messenger, and Signal, and at www.moregracenotes.com. Audio versions in English, French, and Mandarin are aired on hundreds of radio stations worldwide, adding millions to the audience. New versions in Spanish and Portuguese are expected within weeks.

Here’s a sampling of GraceNotes from the last seven years, each written for the start of a new year. See the information at the close of this feature for subscribing to these short, inspiring messages that bring hope to you and those you love.

A GRACE-FILLED RESOLUTION

Only a lingering belief in God’s persistent grace explains our optimism that our lives can be happier in the new year.

If there were no such thing as grace—if we were forced to drag the chains of sin and brokenness behind us for all time—we’d see nothing in the first of January beyond another gray-grim calendar page.

But 2019 offers light and hope because the gospel promises that Christ forgets what Christ forgives—that all our foolishness and spite is gently washed away when we believe in Him. Through grace, this new year can become that season of humility, deep peace, and reconciled relationships of which we’re always dreaming.

There’s just one resolution worth making this—and every—New Year’s Eve: “By grace, I’ll stay in grace.”

A COVENANT FOR WANDERERS

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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.

RENEWAL IN THE RUINS

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At every rounding of the year, we realize how much we need renewal.

On New Year’s Eve, we want to slam the door on the departing year, or banish memories of 2020’s pain and grief. But there are—and must be—great ties between the old year and the new.

We live in the same bodies: we inhabit the same homes. We remain related to the same family: we work at the same jobs. We worship with the same believers: we study the same Word.

It’s renewal, then, and not a clean break from the past, that offers us our greatest hope in 2021. How can our bodies be renewed? Will this year be the one when we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds? (Rom. 12:2). How does a weary marriage find new sources of resilience and of laughter? Can dry and broken friendships be restored? We crave the ageless source of all renewal—the grace and mercy of our Lord revealed in the pages of His Word.

Yes, grace renews what grace began.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

So here’s to growing deeper, stronger, wiser,
kinder in 2021.

Stay in grace.

OPEN DOOR OF GRACE

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Grace is the gift of Christ that lets us close the door on a year of failures and regrets. We needn’t cringe for fear our sins will be discovered or our reputations tarnished. In Jesus, all is known, and yet all has
been redeemed. 

When we choose Jesus as Substitute and Saviour, we confess the fundamental brokenness of our lives:  we’re freed from constantly defending ourselves. When caught by grace, we stop acting to impress each other, and build the candid, caring relationships for which we were created.

Grace heals the past, and offers us a new year rich with love and joy. So stay in grace.

WALKING ACROSS THE LINE

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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.


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