Amazing Grace

14 07 2014

Sometimes the sermon your heart most needs to hear is lived out in front of you by a child.

 

She is two. Curly brown hair frames her sweet face. She enjoys saying hello to people, is learning how to pray, and absolutely loves going to Bible class. Sitting near us with her family, she is learning how to worship and come into God’s presence with surrender and joy.

 

We were about half way through worship when we heard a little bit of movement behind us. We had started singing Amazing Grace, and the song caught the little one’s attention. She started down the row with her family looking for arms to hold her and a place to lay her head. There were a couple of giggles as her determination to find a still spot became evident.

 

After church, her family explained what happened. Every night before going to bed, they sing and pray together. The song they sing right before she goes to sleep is Amazing Grace. When she heard the song in worship, she took it as a cue to find open arms and a strong shoulder to lean on. She laid her head down, thinking that it was time to go to sleep.

 

Her sweet little actions taught me a powerful lesson. Grace is an invitation to draw near to God, step into His open embrace, and still our souls. Every time we see grace, read about grace, experience grace, or sing about grace is an opportunity to recognize God’s presence, settle our hearts in His truth, and rest in His love.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to sing Amazing Grace. As I sing, I am going to focus on the invitation grace extends to my heart. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” I am going to let grace speak through the worry, discouragement, and fear that too often overwhelms me, and listen for His voice. “That saved a wretch like me.” In Christ, I am being made new. The old is gone, the new has come. Now I am a child with a Father who longs to hold me tight. “I once was lost, but now am found.” There is joy in being found, in knowing you are right where you belong. “I was blind, but now I see.” Grace opens our eyes to God’s power and presence, inviting us into His arms and into His rest.





Standing on the Promises

11 07 2014

“Let God’s promises shine on your problems.” – Corrie Ten Boom

I was singing, probably a little more loudly than I should have. The words to the old hymn, Standing on the Promises by Russell Carter, were going through my mind and touching my heart. As the melody flowed, I took comfort in the truth that God’s promises are the best place to find our footing, step away from our stress, and ease the weariness that eats at our souls. I found myself longing to do more than sing about His promises. I needed to immerse myself in the reality of God’s power and faithfulness.

Here are ten of God’s promises on which you can stand…forever.

  1. You will never be alone. Hebrews 13:5
  2. Your sins are forgiven, washed away and buried in Christ. Psalm 103:10-12
  3. His grace is sufficient…no matter what. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. You are on God’s mind and on His heart. Isaiah 49:15
  5. God has a plan for you. Jeremiah 29:11
  6. God’s love for you is solid, sure, and strong. Isaiah 54:10
  7. Heaven is going to be better than we can imagine. Revelation 21:4-5
  8. The Holy Spirit speaks, even when all we have are tears. Romans 8:26
  9. God is working for your good, no matter how bad things seem. Romans 8:28
  10. Jesus is coming back to take us home. John 14:1-3

My Jesus Resolution today is to stand on God’s promises. His sure and faithful words are going to be my anchor in the storm, my foundation in a world that constantly changes, and my light in the darkness. Second Corinthians 1:20 tells me that all of God’s promises find their Yes in Jesus. What that means is that when I ask, “Is it for me?” God answers “Yes!” in Jesus. Now that is something to stand on.





Simple Things

9 07 2014

I don’t know his name, but I am thankful for his heart. We meet in the waiting room every week. He is always there before me, and quick to jump up from his seat and open the door for me as I come in. He smiles, giving me a big hello as I come in and get settled. His simple kindness is a day brightener.

 

My grandmother told me that simple, quiet acts of kindness have great power. It is true. It may not seem like much, but the simple things really do make a difference. Extending grace can be as simple as offering a smile, saying an encouraging word, giving a hug, or opening a door. They cost only a moment of time, a bit of attention, and the willingness to step outside of the me-bubble the world encourages us to live in. The power of quiet kindness, however, is profound.

 

Simple things speak volumes. They say that someone is noticed and seen as a person of value. Kindness communicates the truth that we are in this together and better when we help each other along the way. Compassion imitates the heart of God, making it tangible and real in the moment. Every person we meet is broken and hurting in some way. Simple kindness has the power of touching the heart with healing, hope-filled grace.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to be kind. Not randomly or accidently, but deliberately and prayerfully. I want to learn to see the opportunities to offer His simple gifts to those around me. I want to recognize those moments when a quiet word or gentle action would make a difference in someone’s day. I want the kindness that has been shown to me to overflow in such a way as to open the door into the presence of God.





By Heart

7 07 2014

He is seven years old, cute as a button, and taller than he should be. I watched him drag his feet as he walked with his mom toward us before church was about to begin. Mom arrived first saying that he had something to tell us. “Go on,” she prodded. “Tell them.” I looked at him expectantly, not sure if we were in for a confession or a celebration. He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath, and started. “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus….”

 

I grinned as he went through and named all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. He stumbled just a little bit in the middle of the Minor Prophets, but he made it to the end and we cheered. It was obvious that he had worked hard to learn them by heart. He had a shy, proud smile as we high-fived his big accomplishment.

 

Study after study reports that Biblical illiteracy has reached alarming levels in our society. The studies don’t just refer to people in general, but specifically point to the distressing lack of basic Bible knowledge among Christians. Knowing how to open your Bible, work through its pages, discover what it says, and imprint its message on your heart is essential to growing in Christlikeness. If we want to look like Jesus, we have to know what Jesus looks like. The Bible is the place where God reveals His heart, His will, His character, and His purpose. Knowing the Bible allows us to know God better.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to imitate my little friend. I want to have his heart for learning about God and His Word. I want to invest myself in knowing the Bible. Learning the books of the Bible by heart is not just about learning a list. It is a first step into being able to trace God’s grace through history, understanding His deep desire for me, and becoming familiar with His voice. I want to be able to celebrate with others when they learn something new about God in His Word. I want His Word to be on my heart, so that I can know His heart.





A Prayer for America

4 07 2014

Today is July 4th and all over this land Americans are celebrating independence, freedom, and the blessings and privileges of living in this country.

George Washington, the first President of the United States, penned the following prayer at the close of the Revolutionary War. He sent his thoughts and wishes for the newly formed country to the governors of the thirteen states of the union. His words are still profound and speak to our country’s deepest needs.

“Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large.

And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

My Jesus Resolution today is to follow George Washington’s example and pray for my country. I appreciate the fact that George Washington understood that the best path to our nation being one of justice, mercy, and happiness flows from the commitment of its citizens to humbly imitate Jesus. What was true at the end of the Revolutionary War is still true today. Looking like Jesus is the best hope we have of making this a nation that lives under God with liberty and justice for all.





Discouraged

2 07 2014

“Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.” ~Author Unknown

 

Discouragement is a quiet enemy. Fear can roar. Worry can strangle, but discouragement erodes. Its power isn’t in its speed or ferocity, but in its silent, consistent attack on our hearts. The dictionary tells us that to discourage someone means to “deprive of courage, hope, or confidence.” Discouragement eats away at our courage to face tomorrow, our hope that things can and will be brighter, and our confidence in both ourselves and our God.

 

Discouragement can sneak up on us. During times that require patience, call us to wait, or necessitate taking a long view, discouragement can slip in and wear away at our faith. It strips away our courage, leaving us feeling vulnerable and alone. Our burdens seem a little heavier as discouragement colors our perspective and casts shadows on our hope.

 

God knew we would be discouraged. He knew that it would be hard to wait, difficult to be patient, and tough to trust His timing. That is why over and over again in Scripture we hear His command to encourage one another. He reminds us that together we are stronger, have more courage, and can face the day better than we can alone. When we are encouragers, we infuse someone with the courage that they need to look like Jesus in their circumstances.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to encourage someone. Everyone struggles with discouragement. I know I do. So do you. I try to shake it off, but sometimes it has a way of tenaciously clinging to my heart. An encourager doesn’t judge me for my discouragement, but rather steps alongside and helps carry my burden. In sharing their presence, prayers, and perspective they empower me to take the next step and face the next day. I want to be an encourager for someone today, reminding them that Jesus is here, Jesus will help, and Jesus has a plan unfolding just around the corner.