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Archive for the tag “Amazing Grace”

The Only Answer

Can I be honest with you? The things going on in this country hurts my heart. I don’t know what the answer is, except Jesus. I don’t know how to fix all the strife, but Jesus does. Why doesn’t He do it? Why has God given us this free will when it drives us so far from Him? Why doesn’t everyone love Jesus?

Mark Lowry has written a new song about Jesus called What’s not to Love? “Jesus took my place. My sins have been erased. It’s about amazing grace.” Yet, in this world, Jesus’ name is a curse. People would have you talk about anything else than mention the name of Jesus. Why? I just don’t understand.

Over the last few weeks, I have been researching my family tree. I recently connected with a long distant cousin through a DNA test. The company I used for the test links DNA relatives and gives us the option to connect. One of the DNA relatives contacted me to share ancestry information. She was high on the list as far as segments matched, so I thought why not?

After connecting with her, she put me in touch with her mom who had been researching the family for years. The mother had a nugget or two that I did not have that has led me to my family roots from the turn of the 18th century. I found the link all the way back to England.

What’s really fascinating about all this (in my opinion) is that after coming to America, my family line lived in the south. Every part of the south – from Virginia to Texas. I know my Dad’s family was all southerners too. Now, I know I have southern blood through and through. I’m sure with the southern roots, someone in my family fought in the Civil War. Maybe. I don’t have any proof that they didn’t; I assume some son had to go and probably died. I don’t know what they were thinking if they did, or even if they even had a choice.

I now know my maternal side of the family comes from farmers who had lots of children. They weren’t rich. They kept moving south every couple of generations or so. I don’t know what they were searching for – maybe free land. I do believe most of the people in my family line were Christians. There seems to be evidence of it. It’s probably why the first family came over from England to escape the “state run” religion. That’s speculation. They were good, hard-working people. Again, speculation.

But this I do know, they were not perfect. They had their sins as I have my own. Sins run in my family line – both sides. Yours too. We are an imperfect, sinful people. And nothing will change that fact. We all need Jesus, whether we like to admit it or not. He is the only One who can change hearts, even now in this mess we have going on today.

Jesus said though, that He did not come to bring peace but division (Luke 12:51-53). Families will be split because of Him. Every person will have to choose for themselves whom they will serve. There are only two options. If they do not opt for Jesus, then the default is the other. Most people will not agree with that statement. They think there are many roads to heaven. I wish that were true. But if it was true, Jesus gave His life for nothing. If it’s true, He died a horrible death, not only that, but was beaten until He was unrecognizable. Jesus could have sent for angels to come and rescue Him from all the suffering. But He didn’t because He knew the truth. He is the only way to our Father in heaven. And we are only saved from our sins when we believe in Him.

Unfortunately, the ones who do not opt for Jesus will keep this world in chaos, and even more so as the day approaches when Jesus will return for His church. The signs are getting closer together to demonstrate that time is short. It might take another twenty years, but I don’t think so. I think we are about to run out of the grace period, which is what we have been living in since Jesus left us the first time. Jesus will fulfill the prophecies of His return. Count on it. Make sure of your election to serve Him as the One and Only worthy of serving. What’s not to love? Good question.

So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

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Lean in

My dear Child,

Oh how I love you! I want you to understand the depths of my love for you. I want you to grasp that my love is deeper than any ocean; wider than the expanse of the sky; my love for you cannot and will not change. I loved you before you were born. I loved you back then when you were doing that thing that has you so feeling so ashamed. I love you right now when you don’t feel worthy of it. I will love you no matter what you do or what you say. I want you to understand to the depths of your being that my love for you is unfailing. My love for you propelled me to the cross to take on your sin and shame. I bared the pain and sorrow of the cross so that you wouldn’t have to. There was no other expression that could demonstrate the depth of my love than to die for you. I forgive you for everything that you have done or will do in the future. Believe in me to take those sins and shame from you. Get your heart right with me so that you can experience my depth of love.

Open your heart and let my love heal you. When your heart aches, mine does too. When I see a tear, I shed one too. When I see the joy in your face, I am welling up with joy as well. I want you to know I am with you. I have never left your side. I feel your heart beating next to mine. I know you probably don’t feel me next to you, but I am here. You do not walk alone. I want you to feel my presence today. Seek my face and you will find me. I want to reside in your heart permanently. I want you to experience my joy and peace. Don’t be afraid any longer.

Let me heal those hurts and let me into those dark places. I will heal you and make you whole. I will go with you when the waters are too deep. I will be with you in the dark valleys. I will take care of you when the darkness closes in. Do not be afraid. I have not given you a spirit of fear but of faith. Believe in me. Believe I can do all things. Tell me what burdens your heart today. Talk to me. I am right here listening. Let me into that place that is hurting right now. Reach out to me. Set your heart toward me. Open your ears to hear.

Remember the joy you once experienced. Remember the times when miracles happened. Remember the times when you were rescued. That was me helping you. Think about the times you felt my presence. The memories are there; just remember. Remember those moments of your greatest victories. Remember the times when prayers were answered. Remember the times when you didn’t know how you were going to get out of the mess, and yet you got through it because I was there with you. Remember that all things will come together for your good, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. Be still with me for just a little while. I promise when you look for me, I will be found. I am willing, and I am able to do immeasurably more.

My Father wants a relationship with you. He sent me for you. I am your salvation and your hope today. I am faithful and trustworthy – not only for your salvation but for your deliverance. Know that I am for you. I have not turned away from you. What you are experiencing today will not keep you from the place I have appointed for you. I know there are obstacles in front of you, and I am prepared to go with you through them. I want to walk with you. Rejoice now for the things that I am doing that you cannot see at this time. Keep pressing into me as I work it out for your good and my Father’s glory. Stay the course. Keep your faith in me and do not lose heart. I have overcome so that you will have the victory! Remember my love for you will not fail you. Stay close and feel my presence next to you today.

Your friend forever,

Jesus

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Getting It

Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the cross. It’s Easter time after all. It should be relatively easy to consider these things since devotional material inspires contemplation. I really don’t like to think about it though. It is a cruel way to die. And flogging? A whip with metal or glass shards given to someone for thirty-nine lashes because forty would kill someone? It makes me wonder what mind created such torture devices. How can we be that cruel? Yet, we are all capable of cruelty. Maybe not in that severity, but cruelty can be given in many ways. If I had been in the crowd watching Jesus, what would have been my reaction? Would I have been a follower of Jesus? Would I have been like the women looking on in great sorrow? These are the things I am considering.

But there is one other thing I am considering as well. Love. It is the basis of everything concerning God and Jesus’ actions throughout His ministry. Jesus said “if you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:9, my paraphrase). Jesus lived out the love that God has for each of us. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave us His Son. Do I really get it? Do you? Paul said in Ephesians 3 “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It’s more than head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge. It was his prayer that we would understand this love. I want to. I desire it with all my heart. I want my eyes to be open to it.

Jesus had a moment in the garden when He knelt down to His Father and cried out to take the cup of wrath from Him – but only if it was God’s will. God’s will was for blood to be shed so that we could have a new life. Jesus said that: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Greater love. In His last talk with the disciples, He emphasizes love. His command: love each other. It’s hard to love others. I have someone in my life that is hard to love. Yet, I am commanded by my Lord to love. The only way I can accomplish this Jesus says is to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. He is the only one who can do it. We are to stay connected to Him like a branch is connected to a vine. When His love is in us, we are enabled to share it with others.

When I consider the cross, I don’t consider the horror of it. I consider the love of it – what Jesus did for me. For you. At any moment, He could have opted out and called legions of angels to His rescue. He could have called fire down to consume those who were doing these cruel acts. He could have stayed the hand of those whipping Him. He could have taken the priests out with a single word. He could have done so many things to stop this, but He said nothing. He did nothing. He stayed connected to the cross for me. For you. So that we could love one another as He first loved us. That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of the love that He showed us even when we were still sinners. Even for those who whipped Him; nailed Him on the cross – He asked His Father to not hold it against them, because of their ignorance of what they were doing. They just didn’t get it.

When we finally get it, it will change everything! Love. There’s power in it. When we grasp, how wide and long and high and deep is that love, it will change everything. Do you get it? I am finally starting to.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

The Yuck Factor

If you had asked me at some point in the last week or so whether I was a clean person – meaning that I am a neat freak – I would say yes and no. I don’t like clutter. I believe in keeping my house clean, but I am not fanatic about it. I will get into a real cleaning mode at some point within the year and get into those dark places. Recently, I had one of those moods to clean. I started the cleaning spell one Saturday morning when I knew I needed to flip the mattress. I took off the mattress cover and gave it a wash. I even gave the dust ruffle a fluff in the dryer. I was stopped in the middle of the cleaning though to meet a friend for lunch. Like everything else when interrupted, the momentum stopped; the cleaning spell was gone. Until Sunday.

I don’t normally do much on Sunday. But I do cook. The afternoon was sort of overcast, and it was a little dark in the kitchen. With the cooking done and the cleanup now at hand, I started to clean up the dishes that I piled in the sink. I was too lazy to walk over and flip on the overhead kitchen light, so I flipped on the overhead sink light instead. I usually don’t use this light. The overhead kitchen light is usually sufficient and normally on when I am cooking. With this new light shining in the sink, I was shocked to see what is usually hidden by the dimmer kitchen light. There was a “yuck” factor as soon as I looked down. I thought I kept my kitchen sink in good condition. But this light brought out something that was hidden to my eyes. And the cleaning began once again!

I say all that to say, that’s what the Bible does for me as well. The Bible to me is a light to show me “the yuck factor” in my life. Sometimes though, I really don’t see the yuck until Jesus shines a light into that dark place which has been hidden from me. I have been praying recently for my spiritual blindness to be revealed. And the light has been shining in those dark places. I love the song “Amazing Grace” but I have always thought that the “wretch” in the song was only the songwriter’s dirtiness. The songwriter knew his sins of selling slaves as one of complete wretchedness. He saw his sins as God saw them. Yet, when I sing that song, I don’t see my own wretchedness. Sure I am a sinner – aren’t we all? But are we wretched? Is my sin as bad as selling slaves? Or even murder? To God, all sins are wretched. We all fall short of God’s glory as Paul wrote in Romans 3. It’s not until we truly see as God sees that we see the sin in our hearts as wretched.

Our deeds are even filthiness in God’s sight. So how in the world can God look upon us in our filthiness? If you are in Christ, you know the answer. Through Jesus. He is the only thing good in us. I may not see the wretchedness, but God sees all things. It’s by His grace and mercy that He covers that sin and shame with the love of Jesus. Jesus died so that we could live a new life of righteousness. Not by our works; not by what we can accomplish, but what was accomplished through Jesus. As I contemplate my blindness and my dirtiness, Jesus says He has made me clean. The dirt in the corners will be brought into the light so that He can provide a good reflection for all to see. If we are living right with Him, His light will shine through us so that God will get all the glory for the new heart and new life that is now present. He will make everything new.

It’s nothing like the shiny reflection of a new kitchen sink! When the scrubbing has to be done to get the sink back to a good reflection, it’s going to take a little elbow grease. It’s going to take a few pangs along the way. But it’s worth the cost when the reflection is back. It’s a constant battle to keep the grime from building up. But with the Word of God shining the light, the pain is worth it to keep the yuck factor away!

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT)

The Prodigal

Ever since I came back to the Lord in 1993, I recognize myself in the Prodigal Son (story found in Luke 15). I have often thought what if I had never returned. What if I had stayed on the outside of the Kingdom without returning to my Father’s house? There are no what ifs now. I have been fully embraced by my Father. I might have turned around, but God came running toward me. He initiated the hug (the Love) I received. I didn’t have to do anything, but receive His grace and mercy. He could have given me everything I deserved. I could have stayed in the servant’s quarters. I could have been forced to hard labor for my morsels of food. But God said, “No, you are my child!” God gave me His mercy and offered me His best. He clothed me in righteousness, even though I didn’t feel righteous. He offered me a ring to put on my finger; the ring of intention – the one where I will be His bride at the huge wedding feast. I am His beloved. What amazing grace!

When I was reading this story one morning, I felt such gratitude. I felt gratitude for the story representing God’s love for us even when we are in the dark places away from Him. I felt His love while as the Father waits with anticipation of the son’s return. He watched and waited for the first glimpse of his son. I also pictured Jesus returning to heaven after His death and resurrection. Do you think there was a celebration in the throne room that wonderful day? Do you see the angels celebrating around the throne that Jesus returned to them in His full glory? I can see it. I can see a great party when all those who call on Jesus as Savior return for the greatest celebration that will ever occur. But why wait until then to celebrate? Why aren’t we more joyful today? We have been given so much grace and mercy. We have been given joy through His unfailing love! Why aren’t we sharing the Good News that others who are far away can experience this too?

I don’t know about you, but I was never good enough to go to heaven on my own accord. I just don’t have that much goodness in me. I was given a book a couple of weeks ago about “How good is good enough?” by Andy Stanley. I read it and was so encouraged by the fact I don’t have to wonder if I made the quota of good deeds. Jesus did it all for me. I can rest in the assurance of His saving power that everything I ever did paled in comparison to what He did for me. The only goodness that is in me today is the goodness that Jesus gave to me through His death and resurrection. There is a mighty celebration going on today, and it’s in my heart filled with everlasting joy! Praise God for all the blessings that flow from His love, grace and mercy!

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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 4:9-10

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