Sounds of Grace

I have probably told this story before but I used to sing Amazing Grace all the time when I was young. I had no idea what it meant. I had no reference from a church perspective as the only time I darkened the steps of a church was for weddings and funerals. I don’t even know how I knew it, other than organ lessons perhaps. And no,  I don’t still play. What was I – a grandma even then?

This famed hymn written by John Newton in the 1700’s still resonates with people today, especially if Jesus has opened their eyes to see the truth of God’s love for them. Newton was a slave trader who had a radical conversion to Jesus after praying for a ship he was in not to sink. He later became an abolitionist to set slaves free. Often that which enslaved us, God redeems and it becomes a part of our story to help set others free.

Recently, I was reminded of how much redemption and amazing grace God has brought to my life. I was blessed to travel with 3 great friends to St. Louis, Missouri for the Joyce Meyer women’s conference. Incredible time away on all levels, empowering teaching, ministry opportunities, friendship growth and building times, much, much laughter and enjoying the beauty God has created in that city, in buildings, in people and nature.

In the midst of this goodness one of our friends starting asking the questions of earlier times in our lives before we knew Jesus. It was really humbling and encouraging to watch as she wept for some of the pain we had walked through in our lives and how emptiness had led to bad choices and sin. In the same token it built my faith to see how much God truly is my Redeemer, that I know Him best as that. He has changed my life so radically that I hardly recognize nor believe that my life, thoughts and actions were the way they were back then, in my other life as I call it. It is through the process of my other life and coming to the end of myself though that shows the glory of God, that makes me who I am now, that gives me a hunger to share the One who brought the redemption and made me new.

Grace means to get something you don’t deserve, unmerited favour.

Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The sound of grace is tangible! It is music in the ears of those who feel lost and hopeless and broken and unworthy. It comes in and saves a wretch like us. We do not have to feel lost forever.  It really is quite unbelievable in our own thoughts that God would come in the midst of our stuff and redeem it, heal it, deliver us. But it is His heart and I have experienced it first hand.

Invite Him in to your brokenness, call out to Him in your hopelessness, seek Him where you are lost and even in your insecurity and feelings of worthlessness cry out to Him to show you His Worthiness. Aren’t you tired? “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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Grace Growers

‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ Proverbs 27:17

We all have them. The iron sharpeners. I know this verse is a reminder of our constant need for fellowship to encourage one another. It reminds me about the subject of community that I have spoken of before. I know in many stages of my life I would not still be standing if I didn’t have the cheerleaders God has sent to me. ‘And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that his return is drawing near.’ Hebrews 10:25

On the other edge of the blade sort of speak is where we have the grace growers. Iron sharpening iron consists of rubbing the two blades together making the edges sharper and therefore more efficient. This is true when two people sharpen each other with the word of God in essence fulfilling the law of Christ as they grow together more in Him. But have you touched iron before? It is hard, solid, sometimes rough and heavy, an element used in making metal and sometimes magnetic. It is also by definition strong and enduring.

The reference that I heard about grace growers is they are the difficult people in our lives, the ones that rub the wrong way but essentially are part of God’s plan to rub the things out of us that need to go. If you think of those people right now, do they feel like instruments for God’s good in your life? Although I heard this term in a different context, this is what Graham Cooke says, “God deliberately puts people around us who are meant to be loved by us. Oftentimes, we will have to be very creative to love them;  some of them, by design, are not easy to love. But those unlovable ones, ironically, teach us the most about God’s heart. I call people like these grace growers. They cultivate the grace in my life by forcing me to be intentional in loving them.”

I read recently that emotions travel 80, 000 times faster than thoughts do. I think then when it comes to grace growers it is imperative that I ‘do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ as it says in Romans 12:2. The training of my mind to think on things that are true, right, pure, lovely and excellent will help me respond in God’s way to the grace growers. Emotion motivates thoughts and if I let that happen when I am rubbed the wrong way by someone, then my response is far from godly. Hear me say, this is a process and I am far from perfect in it but I can more easily recognize these people in my life and choose to bless them rather than curse them. It is fairly apparent when I reflect back over the years how God has sent me grace growers in different skin that rise up the same reactions in my flesh , that my lesson (s) are still  a work in progress.

Graham Cooke also talks about a concept called ‘moving in the opposite spirit’. When you move in the opposite ways of your sinful nature or say the sinful nature coming against you through your grace growers then you are moving in harmony with God’s ways and the enemy loses ground. I just listened to Graham Cooke’s Clothed in His Presence and it just affirmed all that I was speaking of today. I think I am done. 🙂 May your grace growers encounter God in your responses.