Lesley (Dahlseng) Rieland

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger


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Grace to Be Gracious (Part 3) – Audio Message

grace[1] To conclude my recent postings concerning our need to truly receive and understand God’s grace for ourselves in order to extend grace toward others, I felt it appropriate to use an audio of a message I shared with House of Prayer Church under Pastor Lynndene Way.  I shared this message in 2012 and still find it important to remind myself of its details years later. 

The message is divided into two tracks totaling approximately 34 minutes.    The first part dives into several of Jesus’ parables which give us an understanding of grace.  The second part incorporates personal application as I share a little about how it has translated into my own life.  Hope you will be blessed!

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:32) 

To view Lesley’s article on Grace to Be Gracious Part 1, please click here.
To view Lesley’s article on Grace to Be Gracious Part 2, please click here.


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Grace to be Gracious (Part 2)

grace[1]Why did God use Peter, the disciple who (other than Judas) had committed the most grievous offense against Jesus in denying Him?  Why did God use him to be one of the leading apostles in spreading the gospel of Christ?  He had been given the intimacy of being within Jesus’ innermost circle and yet it was he that, despite being forewarned, verbally denied Christ . . . not just once, not just twice, but three times.

Of course, it was Peter who spoke by revelation from the Father and answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) and because of such revelation he was no longer called Simon, but Peter, meaning “rock”.  I believe it is more than this revelation that made Peter a leading apostle, however.  Knowing that Jesus is the Christ does not necessarily indicate that Christ is known or understood.  As hinted at throughout the gospels, the Messiah – or Christ – meant something different for many Jews who, weary of being under the oppression of the Romans, sought a vindicator of sorts, often perceived in the form of a political activist who would rescue them and only them.

Knowing Christ needs to be more than putting the right name in the slot.  To truly preach Christ, we must first experience Christ.  And our experience is through faith and, even more foundationally, by grace (Ephesians 2:8).  Peter understood grace more fully upon hearing the evidence of his own inadequacy roll off his tongue three separate times.  He then understood his need for grace and he was later to experience God’s extension of grace.

God’s preference is often what we would consider an unlikely match.  As it states in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to confound the strong.”  Furthermore, we find in 2 Corinthians 12:8 that God’s grace is always sufficient and it is displayed most fully through our weaknesses, for God’s “strength is made perfect in weakness.”

The above verses were penned by a man not at all foreign to God’s grace.  If Peter seemed an unlikely match for carrying the gospel after his three strikes, Paul would have been the unlikeliest.  A passionate persecutor of the early church, Paul had personally seen to the imprisonment and execution of many Christians.  It was he that stood by in approval of Stephan’s stoning.  And it was during one of his pursuits to fulfill his “murderous threats” that God demonstrated the extent of His grace (Acts 9).  Paul would never be the same.

The unlikeliest man became the chosen man to deliver God’s grace to the unlikeliest people – the gentiles.   To say that Paul was a leading apostle would not do it justice, considering that at least 13 of the New Testament’s 27 books are attributed to him.  Yet, as Paul admits throughout his writings, he did not deserve his position: ” For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).  This is repeated again in Ephesians 3:9:  “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.”   Paul understood grace.

Paul’s message was grace, grace, and grace again.  What of our sins?  “Grace,” Paul would answer.  What about our works?  “Grace,” he would echo.  But how can I . . . ?  “Grace and more grace” he would again declare.  And here comes the challenge:  What of our relationships with others?  “Grace – make your conversations full of it (Colossians 4:6) and extend it generously, being kind and compassionate and forgiving to others just as God has been to us (Ephesians 4:32 & Colossians 3:13).

Grace both necessitates and enables graciousness toward others.  The realization of our own undeservedness and the revelation of God’s love despite this fact must also carry into our perception of others.  There is nothing like grace to defeat our prejudices.  Our own reception of grace should inspire within us the truth that no one is beyond God’s reach.  And if God wants to reach them, why shouldn’t we?

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8)


To view “Grace to be Gracious (Part 1)”, please click here.
To view “Grace to be Gracious (Part 3) Audio Message”, please click here.
To view a list of articles written by Lesley, simply Click Here!


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Grace to Be Gracious (Part 1)

grace[1]“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” ( John 13:34-35).

Jesus’ words form the backdrop to a lesson His disciple Peter is soon to learn.  Certainly the last three years had been the most revelatory of any Peter had experienced, though none were as pivotal as what was yet to come.

Jesus continued, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’  Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.’  Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me?  I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!'” (John 13:36-37).

And so it went.  Three years of loyal discipleship appear to reach a bitter end.  Three times Peter disowns Jesus and for three days he is left with the grief over his master in a tomb.

It’s so easy to brood over the remorse of our last moments with loved ones.  Did we say ‘I love you’?  Was our last goodbye with an embrace?  Did we fully express our appreciation like we should have?  At times our last moments are in strife.  Perhaps there was a disagreement.  Perhaps we needed to ask forgiveness and didn’t get the chance.  This is the torment Peter no doubt faced. His last memories were of Jesus’ eyes locked on his . . . just as the rooster crowed.  Jesus knew, and there was no time for apologies.

Thankfully, we serve a God who can raise up even something that’s dead.  After three days, Christ was raised, and within His third appearance to His disciples, He was about to raise up a broken Simon Peter.  The three betrayals were met with three questions from Jesus.

First:     “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
Second: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
Third:   “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Three times Peter was given the opportunity to replace each rejection with an affirmation of his love for Jesus.  My NIV Bible offers the heading “Jesus Reinstates Peter” to this passage.  It is a powerful illustration of second chances.  It is a powerful demonstration of GRACE.  

It is interesting that the disciple whose actions should have caused the greatest offense against Jesus went on to become the one whom most scholars agree was the head apostle.  Peter was also the first to receive the revelation concerning the acceptance of the gentiles.  Within his vision, the Lord revealed to him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10: 15).  This would have been a major challenge to their prejudicial mindsets during that time – but Peter understood grace.

It is difficult to be gracious to others if you can’t receive grace for yourself.  Pride is at the crux of this dilemma.  After all, how can God’s blessings be recognized as an act of grace if we feel we deserve them?  Grace can only be received in humility.  Likewise, true graciousness can only be offered out of humility.  True graciousness is an extension from the understanding of the grace God has given. 

Jesus points out this principle as his feet were being wet with the tears of a sinful woman, washed by her hair, and anointed with her perfume.  This woman had been extended grace, and Jesus references her actions as a window into the nature of love – and, I believe, grace as well.  After all, grace is the extension of God’s love.  Jesus stated, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.  But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).  Similarly, Peter had been forgiven much, and he would soon be called to love much.  Grace would call him to be gracious. 

Remember the backdrop to Peter’s pivotal lesson?  Jesus had just finished commanding His disciples to love one another to such an extent that others would recognize they were disciples of Christ.   He then told Peter that where He was about to go, Peter couldn’t follow . . . “but you will follow later.”  This is likely in regards to Christ’s death, resurrection and heavenly ascension.  Nonetheless, there seems to be great symbolism within this statement as well, given the lesson Peter was soon to undergo.  At that time, Peter was incapable of following Jesus’ command to love just as He had loved.  Peter had yet to fully comprehend his own need for grace.  He was still convinced of his own abilities. Until . . .

Until his betrayal and reinstatement. It is interesting that after each opportunity Peter had to replace his betrayals with affirmations, Jesus gave these commands:

First:    “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
               “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
               “Feed my lambs.”

Second: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
                 “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
                 “Take care of my sheep.”

Third:   “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
               “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
               “Feed my sheep.”

These commands can be easily romanticized on our super-spiritual highs. However, there will be lows. The “sheep” and “lambs” are not always so cute and cuddly. Sometimes they seem downright baaa-d. (Sorry, I had to – I’m a children’s author after all!)  Personally, in these times I’ve learned that I will not be able to extend grace if I don’t bring to remembrance the grace given to me!

” . . . to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . .

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? . . .
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
(Luke 6:27-36)


To view Grace to Be Gracious (Part 2), click here.
To view Grace to Be Gracious (Part 3) – Audio Message, click here.
To view more articles written by Lesley, simply
Click Here!


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RESET!

8024708_s (stopwatch)I am a runner.  Well, I run . . . occasionally.  This year my husband and I decided to enter a Hard Charge event together for a new and “fun” experience.  It was a little over four miles with 30+ obstacles and lots of mud, mud, mud.  To ensure that I survived this experience, I figured I should train a bit more regularly than I had been doing for quite some time.  During this particular season, I came across a Facebook post from a lady claiming that she “craves exercise like some people crave chocolate.”  As much as I wanted to click the “Like” button, it would not have been genuine.  In actuality, the post elicited more of a sarcastic “good for you – grumble, grumble” attitude.

This is not to say that I never enjoy exercise.  And I can testify that I always feel better about choosing to do so.  After one particular workout with my husband, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment as I looked down at my stopwatch.  I basked for a moment in the feeling that my work was complete . . . until I heard these words:  “Well, it’s time to hit the ‘Reset’ button.  Today’s time doesn’t translate into tomorrow.”  Sometimes my husband is all-too-right.  Tomorrow’s time read 0:00:00.   

It seems there is a “Reset” button for nearly everything in life.  I can strive for a spotless home, but my children possess a not-so-rare skill of clutter and contamination.  My kitchen sink seems to breed dirty dishes.  Keeping my checkbook register up-to-date is a continual effort.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics is always at play in my life, as much as I’d like our play-dates to cease.  The truth is that all things tend toward disorder. Relationships are not immune to this reality.  The familiar joke about a man claiming he no longer needs to say “I love you” since he already did so on his wedding day is actually detrimental to a marriage.  A person’s love-tank empties itself over time and needs constant refilling.  This reality is just as true spiritually. 

I once heard the wise counsel that “if you are not moving forward in your relationship with God, then you are moving backward.”  It was a difficult concept to accept at first, until I had time to experience it myself.  Today’s prayer time does not translate into tomorrow’s, nor does meditation on His word, nor our reliance on Him for all things.  This can be a daunting realization, especially if your theology is one based in religion as opposed to relationship.  Diligence is not a natural human quality in this world and weariness can easily set in.  This is why the Bible is full of passages like that of Galatians 6:9 which encourages us to “not become weary in doing good,” and Hebrews 10:36  which reminds us that we “need to persevere.”  There is always a Reset. “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (1 Corinthians 9:27).  Reset.   “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).  Press forward!  Press Reset!

It dawned on me, however, that a “Reset” button is actually my greatest blessing. The instruction to “pray continually” must mean that God actually desires to hear me that often (1 Thessalonians 5:17)!  He does not “feed” me once and leave me hungry.  Rather, He offers me bread on a daily basis (Matthew 6:11, Luke 11:3).  His forgiveness does not stop at seven times, but extends to “seventy times seven” and beyond (Matthew 18:22).  How thankful I can be that God’s steadfast love never ceases, that His “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).  Though my sins were as scarlet, He reset them to be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).  Though my heart was as hard as stone, He chose to reset and give me one of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).   He offers a Reset for each and every one of us.  While we were yet an enemy of God, He envisioned a Reset . . . And now that we are “reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life” (Romans 5:10).


To view more articles written by Lesley Dahlseng, simply Click Here!