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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Out of Hiding & into Unity

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

My heart is burning with the issue of unity. Unity in the church, unity in relationships, unity in our hearts with the heart of God. This week has been fraught with examples of how our spiritual enemy can take the simplest thing and twist it in the slightest way to push in a thorn of offense. I can speak into this with authority, fortunately so you know I speak from experience and unfortunately because I have been susceptible to doing the enemy’s dirty work of creating disunity. So part of this post is learning for myself and then to share with you what God says in this matter as in 1 Timothy 4:15,”Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” And my heart is always to grow in Christ.

I heard it said that having an affair is not usually a one time quick choice decision, it is a slow, descent from discontent and small compromises into full-blown sin. I believe this does not even happen with the lustful desire for another but from a simple thought entertained and meditated on. I suspect that bitterness and resentment are created in us by a similar process. It is here where I have pangs for the body of Christ as I see how easily these things can build in us and create brokenness. We are so desperate to feel better or be better that we get careless about guarding our hearts. Remember I am speaking to myself as well. It is not my intent to point at things and dig in until it hurts but perhaps to bring a bit of recognition so we can go to God and deal with our hurts that drive the behaviours.

Comparison kills. Bottom line. We need to celebrate the diversity and unique qualities in people. We are the church and our unity is imperative to show the world the love of Jesus. He said it himself to future believers (that is us, p.s.) in John 17:23,”I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Our attitudes toward others reflects our relationship with God. Just as we run from temptation so we should run to resolve a problem or grievance with someone. God cannot receive the offering of your worship to Him when you are despising someone in your heart. “Therefore , if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5 :23,24

I like to say to that this is not always just something they have against us, but us against them. I know God reveals things about people to us all the time but it is at that moment we are given the choice, do we let that fall away, is God showing us how we can pray or do we criticize or judge them. Knowing things is one thing but when we decide why people are doing the things they are is when we cross over into that dangerous ground of judgement. There is nothing smooth on that terrain and it is here that it leads to the roads of resentment and bitterness. And we drive to this road of hell with our tongue as the vehicle. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:10

So I encourage you in all of this to sit with God and let Him search your heart. Dig into those places of frustration, of discontent, of comparison, of hurt and bring them before the Lord and ask Him to reconcile your heart to His and to others if need be. Sometimes I have started simply with Lord please give me even a desire to forgive them or release them or bless them. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Ephesians 4:29-32 where Paul is teaching the church of Ephesus the importance of unity in the body of Christ. So I will leave you with that. As Joyce Meyer says we can never get enough teaching about our mouth!

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”