Into each life some rain must fall

Life is going to bring disappointment your way. I’m not a prophet, it is the common human experience.  My Dad used to repeat these lines when he was struggling with things that made him sad:  “Into each life some rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary.”  I don’t know if Dad knew they were part of a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining.
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.
Thy fate is the common fate of all.
Into each life some rain must fall.
Some days must be dark and dreary.

The poet was no stranger to sorrow. His father, mother and brother all died within a two-year span. His first wife died after a miscarriage and his second wife died tragically in a fire. His son was badly wounded at Gettysburg. Longfellow though broken at times by depression, remained sentimental and hopeful, and was popular in America in the mid -19th century.

Evidence of his hope is written into the poem sung as the Christmas Carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” –  “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”  He wrote those word at the height of the Civil War, with death and violence filling the nation.

What choice will YOU make when the rain starts to fall?

Will you become a cynic like Solomon protesting the supposed emptiness of life?  In his old age, after a life filled with wealth, fame, power, and pleasure, Solomon complained bitterly that all is vanity. “Smoke, nothing but smoke. There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-5, The Message)  What a sad conclusion that closes the door to opportunity.

Will you let the battering break your pride and carry you to an total dependence on the love of our Father?  Paul, once a proud, self-sufficient Pharisee, came to Christ to find a life of rejection, persecution, shipwreck, and imprisonment! He realized that suffering allowed him to be identified with his Savior. He rejoiced in it as his pride crumbled and the Lord became his treasure and hope.

From is experience he teaches us not “be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:13-20, NIV) What a stark contrast to the bitterness of Solomon.

Here in 2020, we are all, in one way or another, making our way through uncertainty, hard times, and perhaps even sickness. Our lives have been turned inside out by limits placed on us, fairly or unfairly, who knows? Businesses, thriving just months ago, are near wreckage now. Emotions are raw. Optimism is a like a rare and precious gem.

We have God and His promises to care for us, keep us, and lead us life eternal. So, we say, with Paul, ‘when I am weak, then I am strong.’ If we are willing to rest in Him, we need not become bitter complaining to God and everyone else who might listen about the ‘unfairness’ of it all. It is a temptation, however, isn’t it?

Job is a model for those who are dealing with disappointment. He struggled to understand his life AND kept talking to God!  And, in the end, though the Lord never explained what He had allowed, He revealed His majesty and Job was both humbled and comforted.  
“Without humility there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit. Without it there can be no abiding faith or love or joy or strength.” (Andrew Murray)

Christian friend, come often to the throne of God. Hide your life in Christ through faith. Silence the rebel heart and submit to Him, listening, waiting, hoping. There is great grace to  be found.

Here is the word from the Word.

“He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires.
As the Scriptures say, “God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.”
(James 4:6, NLT)

“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2, NLT)

“But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12, NLT)

________________

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
This song was the anthem that sustained Bev and I as she was dying.
It is a powerful declaration of faith.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sov’reign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm|© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

I’m mad at Hell!

Are you combative, aggressive, meeting life these days with angry words and attitudes? Anger is abundant in America and I am not just talking about the protests in the streets. Who among us has not reacted to life with a sense of outrage … How could he? What was she thinking? That is the most idiotic idea!  Sometimes the expressions are much more ‘colorful’ than I would care to repeat in this blog.  

Anger can be useful but, like an explosive, it can wound and destroy, too. When properly focused and kept under control, anger motivates us to make change, to get involved, to resist wrongs. Are you mad at the right things?

I hope that your convictions are deep enough that anger is stirred when you see injustice. I hope you love God enough to hate sin as He does. I hope you are passionate about owning eternal riches enough to reject the seductions of the devil and the trinkets he offers to you. Christian, we need to be capable of actually getting mad at Hell. AND,  we need to use that anger in a way that Christ desires.

My Scripture meditation took me to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians again today. He reminds us of our grace heritage, of the Spirit’s work on our behalf, and in his closing lines asks us power up!

“A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT)

Perhaps you are thinking, “How very medieval of you, Jerry, to blame demons for our problems.”  Whatever you may want to believe, the Bible is quite clear that evil is real, personal and active. There are not two gods, One good;  one evil. Scripture reveals to us that the Devil is a created being, a powerful spiritual being who hates all things God and good.  His agents (demons) act to kill and destroy, albeit, usually hidden behind the scenes.  Christians must pray to be discerning so that their efforts for Christ are like a guided missile and every resource has maximum effect.

Christians are wary of such militant language, for good reason.  Much harm has been done in the Name of Christ by people who got angry at the wrong things and sought the destruction of the wrong people. (Think Crusades, Inquisitions, Salem witch trials, and Falwell’s Moral Majority)  Our true enemy, the Word reminds us, is not other people – regardless of what we think about them.  We are engaged in battle with powerful spiritual beings who are deployed to resist and destroy what God loves.

Paul starts that revealing passage by urging us to put on the protective armor God provides – truth, His ‘righteousness’ that is being in close relationship with Him, the peace of Christ that keeps us from debilitating shame and guilt, and faith that shields us.  We must understand that we are saved from sin, by the gift of God’s grace. This new identity leads to transformation of character and is like a helmet that protects our thinking processes. We are equipped to meet the falsehoods that deceive others because we have the Word of God. What He speaks to our mind and heart becomes a sword that cuts down the lying spirits that advance against us.

And then there is this – which we must NOT FORGET.   Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18, NLT) Pray, pray, pray, and then pray again. Yes, this is the way that we wage war in pursuit of the Kingdom objectives. If the only prayers we know are the childish ones like now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, or the selfish ones – God bless me, my kids, my friends. Amen we will not be very effective in dealing with those spiritual forces that want to destroy us.  If we only say prayers in church or on special days, or mumble our way through some sentimental thoughts as we drift off to sleep, our powerlessness in the face of evil will match our prayerlessness. 

Prayer is real work that involves heart and mind, that demands discipline, a constant engagement with the Spirit on behalf of the world around us.  Yes, the Word says we are to ‘pray without ceasing.’  We pray while we work, while we relax, when we are upset, when we are thankful – in short, all the time.  A glimpse of the practicality of prayer is found where Jesus says “when someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.”  (Luke 6:28) Prayer is not an escape from the world, as some would see it. It is a primary way that Christians bring God’s will to bear on the world in which they live.  “May Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”  

If you don’t know how to pray, just start. Prayers are not effective because they are eloquent or long.  God seeks people who desire Him, who will pursue Him, whose lives are a conversation with Him. This is the heart of true prayer. How we pray will often mirror our personality.  Some will pray quietly, some will shout. Some will use many words, some almost none. Our most powerful prayers will not be those we pray in public forums because they are too often addressed to the crowd instead of God.  We will defeat evil when we learn to live with our lives hidden in Christ.

Our word from the Word are Jesus’ profound words from Matthew’s Gospel.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. …”

“This, then, is how you should pray:
”‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)

Christian, let God make you mad at Hell! Then, pray!

___________

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing (Nettleton)

Pray along with this great hymn.

Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise mine Ebenezer
(a marker stone of an encounter with God set by Jacob)
Hither by Thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wand’ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

John Wyeth | Robert Robinson © Words: Public Domain

God Re-discovered?

As this COVID thing drags on the impact on our lives increases. A few felt it early on, when the sickness hit hard leaving their bodies weakened or when death visited their family. The rest of us were coping with the loss of normal social interaction, kids at home, work hours curtailed, or the threat to our business. We complained about being ‘stuck at home,’ or not being able to go to a restaurant, or seeing grocery store shelves bare, but we assumed that we would find ‘normal’ in a few week’s time. Several months in, with no end in sight, we are realizing that life has changed, maybe forever.

Every decision, right down to deciding where we will eat, how we will worship, and who we will invite into our home now carries the weight of wondering ‘is it safe?’  Things we once took for granted like sending our children off to school, going to church, or taking a vacation are now sources of stress. Our governing authorities are unreliable guides, imposing capricious rules, issuing contradictory information. Often our leaders are outright incompetent.  Added to the weight of COVID is the social upheaval we are now experiencing.

The future is a murky mess. The result?

Stress is UP. Marriages are strained. Communities are breaking down. And, quiet yet urgent questions will not go away. A lot of us are re-thinking the way we live, the choices we make, the foundations on which we have built our lives. Is there a nagging sense that “there must be more to life” than what you have been chasing after?

It is time to return to Jesus Christ. You knew I would say that, right? After all, I am a Christian pastor. True, but even my faith is being re-defined. Church programs, religious shows that masquerade as ‘worship,’ celebrity preachers that offer self-help sermons about human potential are being shown for what they are; “clouds without rain.” Serious Christianity, a dedication to Jesus Christ; to love of God and love for others, is making a return. Little groups of people hungry for God are re-discovering the God of the Word.  At our core we desire immortality, want to know hope, and to live a life that means something. There is no one on earth that can offer us that, no place we can buy those things. Christ alone gives us life eternal, peace that is anchored beyond our present trials, and true purpose.

Real Christian discipleship will satisfy our soul hunger. Let’s not confuse our ‘church-ianity’ with real Christianity!  Recent history shows that millions can ‘go to church’ without having their lives even superficially touched by the Gospel of Christ. (Think racism that remained rooted in churches long after civil rights arrived in America.)  Church-goers of the last 50 years lived the same way as non-believers with a thin veneer of religion glued on the surface of their lives. The prescription for ‘life to the full’ involves radical repentance for sin, deep commitment to Christ, and profound care for others. The pursuit of Christ and a life that is holy will be costly, difficult, and yes – will change us and the world in which we live miraculously. (That is not hype or oversell. It is the Gospel Truth!)

Here is a word from the Word. Though familiar, take time to meditate on Jesus’ words. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NIV)  

“Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. …

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:21-27, NLT)

___________

Build My Life

(A great song that points us to real faith in the Builder)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing

Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring

Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe

We live for You

Jesus the name above ev’ry other name

Jesus the only one who could ever save

Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe

We live for You

We live for You

Holy there is no one like You

There is none besides You

Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are

And fill me with Your heart

And lead me in Your love to those around me

I will build my life upon Your love

It is a firm foundation

I will put my trust in You alone

And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett

© 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited)

Kaple Music (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing)

Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Wandering around in my memories

Tomorrow I will be 65 years of age! That seems really OLD to me. If you are 30, that seems ancient. If you are 88, it is relatively youthful. For me it means Medicare, thinking about 403(b) accounts, and reflecting on the past more often. Yes, 65 definitely feels ‘old.’  I do not generally make much of a deal about birthdays. I do make them an occasion to remember the life I’ve lived.

In 2011, when my Mom was living with us in her final days, my birthday arrived and she wanted to talk.  I sat on the edge of her bed and she told me about my birth, her first born. She married my Dad on May 28, 1954, the day after she graduated from high school. Three months later she found out she was pregnant. With a wry laugh that day, she told me that she was not at all happy that she was going to become a Mom. She choked up as she recounted how hard it was to accept the responsibility of having a baby, how she struggled to grow up so fast.

Finding out that my arrival was not an occasion for celebration was both funny and a bit unsettling on my 56th birthday. By the way, she was a good Mom … not just to me, but eventually to 13 of us; 10 adopted in the second half of her life.

My early childhood was a beautiful one, full of love, warmth, and security. Some might even say idyllic. Life centered on family and church. It took a jarring turn at age 9 when Dad entered full-time Christian ministry in New York City and we left the Iowa farm and family behind for a tiny lot in a Staten Island development. When that chapter closed we moved to NJ. Something like the life I’d known before returned.  

I was just 19 when I fell in love and a few months later married the lovely girl who was my partner in parenting and ministry for 41 years before her own untimely death 4 years ago. My richest blessings are the 4 beautiful children that God gave to us and the privilege of serving Him in His Church as a pastor to God’s people. From the age of 16, I knew that my calling was Christian ministry.

Now, when I face the future, I do so knowing that I am, once again, on the cusp of major shifts in life. It will be time to retire in the blink of an eye, what then? Only God knows, truly.

My meditation today took me to the words of Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote these words near the end of his life. He started well, lived a life full of opportunity, took a long detour from serving God in mid-life. His words are full of cynicism and regret, but he closes with wisdom for us all. 

So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”—” (Ecclesiastes 11:8-12:1, NIV)

“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.

Here’s how I sum it up.

Enjoy life, it’s short
There will be some dark days.
Keep in mind, while you’re young, that God will ask an accounting.
Days will come when aches and pains steal the joy.
So, serve God whole-heartedly now.

Got it, Solomon!

Thanks letting me wander around in my memories today. I’ll be taking a break tomorrow.

Lord-willing, Coffeebreak Reflection will be back on Wednesday.
Have a blessed week. Here is a word from the Word.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV)

___________

This song has become, for me, a source of great assurance in this turbulent 2020.
Spend a few moments focused on the One who is the Way Maker, our Promise Keeper!

Way Maker

You are here moving in our midst
I worship You I worship You
You are here working in this place
I worship You I worship You

Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper,
Light in the darkness, my God that is who You are

You are here touching ev’ry heart
I worship You I worship You
You are here healing ev’ry heart
I worship You I worship You
You are here turning lives around
I worship You I worship You

You are here mending ev’ry heart
I worship You yeah I worship You Lord
That is who You are
That is who You are
That is who You are
That is who You are

Even when I don’t see it You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it You’re working
You never stop You never stop working
You never stop You never stop working

Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu © 2016 Integrity Music Europe (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))

CCLI License # 810055

Thoughts for the 4th

The Declaration of Independence, the document drafted and circulated in the colonies, sparked a revolution.  In our turbulent time we should remember that 1776 saw the people divided, those rebelling against the Crown of England in conflict with their neighbors who remained Loyalists. This document was radical. It re-defined the way people thought about government, rejecting the authority of the king and insisting that government’s legitimacy comes  “from the consent of the governed.”  The Declaration opens and closes with references to God and Providence. Thomas Jefferson and those who assisted him in drafting it, understood that the world belonged to God and was ultimately shaped by His will. (By the way, they were not devout evangelical Christians in spite of the myths you have been told!) Knowing that the revolution would be costly and unlikely to succeed without the help of God, the authors looked upwards as they wrote of their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

Two centuries later America is a world power, a wealthy nation, and a broken society. We are in desperate need of the protection of Divine Providence!  We may have assumed, not all that long ago, that our treasured freedoms and democracy were beyond collapse, that America would always be envied among the nation.  How wrong that assumption was. Life and liberty are at risk from those who would rewrite our social contract. Our government is big, corrupt, and tramples our individual freedoms with ever more invasions of our lives. Our prosperity has become a curse, deceiving us to think we do not need God.

America has lost her way spiritually. Whatever devotion to Christian ideals might have existed is evaporating. Moral rot eats at the heart of the nation!  Our justice system imprisons millions. Corporations buy politicians who worship party over national good. Media outlets are largely outlets of propaganda. Our churches are weak, their message a whimper of niceness. Because we do not fear the Lord we are incapable of naming sin or calling people to the Gospel of Christ and spiritual renewal. Individually, we have turned to Self, relegating God to the edge of our consciousness.

But, I am not without hope. God has always preserved for Himself a ‘remnant.’  In times of spiritual decline, when God allowed judgment to fall on His people, there were always  the faithful. They were not numerous, often hidden from public view, but they relied on the Lord, a faithful remnant. Paul says “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” (Romans 11:5, NIV)  No, I do not mean to imply that America is guaranteed revival and restoration because of the prayers of the few. She may be, or she may find herself, like a thousand societies before her, on history’s trash pile. But, God’s Church will survive to bear His Name before the world.

I do love my country. I pray for her to truly become what she has aspired to be – a place where there is liberty and justice for all.  I pray earnestly for true repentance to come from humility before Him, that our minds and hearts would take this counsel of the Lord to humbly consider our ways, to turn from our sins, to seek Him.

And this I know, that it is the nation who trusts in the Lord that finds the blessings of God.  On the 4th of July, would you find a time to pray?  Pray with me that the Spirit of God will preserve a remnant of the righteous, that they will faithfully bear witness to His Gospel and goodness.

  • Pray for individual Christians to live the kind of godly lives (Oh, Lord, start with my heart!) that causes others to desire to know Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for Churches to become powerful catalysts of genuine spiritual transformation, places where God’s truth is loved and ALL people find grace and acceptance.
  • Pray for those who govern, that they will recognize – like the writers of the Declaration – the need for reliance on the protection of Divine Providence and humble themselves to seek Him.

A word from the Word –  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:12-19, NIV)

__________

America The Beautiful

(Ray Charles does it right!)

O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life
America, America may God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And ev’ry gain divine

O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain
America, America God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness
America, America God mend thine ev’ry flaw
Confirm thy soul in self control
Thy liberty in law

Katharine Lee Bates © Words: Public Domain

You OWE me!

Do you think that the world owes you something regardless of your effort or abilities? The prosperity of the late 20th century gave many parents the notion that they should make sure that their children never had to struggle in the way that previous generations did. What grew out of a well-intentioned impulse to make life easier actually led to a steep increase in entitlement. Reward was disconnected from effort and replaced with a new mantra: “You owe me. … my cell phone, a nice car, a high-paying job.”  Entitlement has worked into every part of our society, among young and old, rich and poor.

Those are most enmeshed in entitlement are extremely protective of their personal happiness. They feel an exaggerated sense of self-importance often believing themselves more talented or qualified than they really are. They lack an ability to compromise and work towards shared solutions because it is next to impossible to let go of what they consider a basic human right of self-expression. Thinking that they should be admired and respected they are quickly offended by that person who suggests that they are, in fact, ordinary human beings who need to earn their place in the world.

Christian, is your Christianity marred by a sense of entitlement?
When you pray, is it to commune with God, to become wise in His ways,
or do you mostly pray “bless me, Jesus” prayers for a better life?

Entitled Christians are not able to recognize the goodness of God. They are almost completely incapable of true worship or sincere thanks.

And there is this – ingratitude is a fertile soil that nourishes spiritual rebellion!  In the first chapter of Romans, the desperate state of depraved humanity is outlined with an ugly recital of sin. Where does it all begin? “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21, NIV)  Mistakenly thinking, God owes me happiness, He owes me a life without struggle, turns me into an entitled people who demands more. Ungratefulness makes me more and more Self-centered, increases my doubt about the goodness of the Lord, and eventually twists me into a bitter cynic. In that place, I lose out on the life-enriching fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Christian, this short phrase is more than a slogan; it’s a life principle. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV)  Thankfulness expands our capacity to love – both God and others. Let me ask a hard question – are you humble enough to be grateful?  God owes us nothing yet provides, in His love, all things for our good. He loves us while we are ignoring Him. He entered a broken world to die for us on the Cross when we were full of Self. He pursues us when we go our own way.  

Confronting our pride and entitlement, the truth of Scripture reminds us that “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT)

Let’s invite the Spirit to show us where we are acting as if God owes us and repent. Peter teaches us the way of the humble. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6, NIV)  In that humility we learn to accept the good gifts of the Lord. We learn to be steady in faith when times are bad. And, we enjoy the best gifts of the Lord rather than those we think He should provide for us.

Let’s cultivate real gratitude.  If we wait for it to just ‘show up’ in our lives, we will die feeling God and the world owes us more!  But, if we humble ourselves, take note of His faithfulness often as well as the goodness of others, we to give and receive from hearts made noble by the Lord’s work in us.

Here’s a word from the Word. “Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV) “Thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. He poured great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry got plenty to eat. ” (Psalm 107:8-9, The Message)

__________________

Give thanks
With a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ His Son

And now let the weak say
I am strong
Let the poor say
I am rich
Because of what
The Lord has done for us

Give thanks

Henry Smith

© 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Cracks that lead to collapse

Around 6 on the evening of August 1, 2007, a bridge that spanned the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis was packed with traffic backed up by a construction project. Suddenly it collapsed. 111 vehicles including a school bus plunged downwards with steel and concrete. 13 people died and 145 were injured. Engineers knew the bridge was weakened by structural deficiencies. That was why the construction was ongoing, but nobody knew at the time that a design failure in connecting plates was an incident just waiting to happen. Those plates had been made too thin. They were gradually cracking with time’s passing. Finally one of them tore along a line of rivets. Tragically, the added weight of the construction equipment and materials in place to repair the bridge most likely contributed to the tragedy of the collapse.

Is your life in danger of collapse? Integrity is a quality of character that is of inestimable value. It means being the same person privately that we appear to be publicly. Honesty is part of integrity but it goes deeper. Integrity is about more than our words – it is a basic attitude about life, a commitment to authenticity, a refusal to pretend, cover up,  excuse, or create an image. In part it flows from self-awareness, from being content to be no more or less than we are, even while committing ourselves to growth and development.

Don’t confuse integrity with perfection! A person who tries to appear flawless is surely going to lack integrity. We are human which means we certainly have places in our lives that are ‘under construction,’ flaws and sins. To live with integrity does not necessarily mean that we put all the ‘dirty laundry’ of our lives on display for all the world to see. It does mean that we are committed to transparency before God and people who are close to us.

John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, points out one of the key parts of integrity. It is ‘confession.’   He says “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He takes away not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 1:8-2:2, NLT)

“Sin” is one of those words that many no longer understand or accept. When the Bible talks about sin, it is not just speaking to single acts – cursing, lying, stealing, hating. Sinfulness is the natural state of humanity apart from the intervening grace of God. Naturally, regardless of good intentions, we cannot be the person God made us to be. “No, Jerry, that is not true. We are noble creatures and our failures are the result of lack of education or opportunity, or poor parenting, or a lack of self-esteem.” 

Yes, I know that is what we are taught but it is flatly contradicted by God’s truth. Education, opportunity, good parenting, and good emotional health are amazing resources but even with all those advantages – people fail to the do right things. It is hard to admit so we rationalize, excuse, blame, and/or cover up our failures, those cracks in our character. Paul, speaking of his life apart from Christ’s grace says “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” (Romans 7:24, NLT)  His answer? Jesus Christ!

The Gospel of Christ invites us to look at ourselves without excuse and to get honest to God! When we confess our sinfulness, “Oh, God, be merciful to me,” He responds graciously and faithfully with two amazing gifts. He wipes away the guilt and He makes us clean, inside out. Confession is an interesting word. Most basically the Biblical word means to say the same thing. Instead of saying, ‘Yes, I know I have a temper that is out of control but that’s because my Dad was temperish, too,”  we agree with God that our temper makes us ungodly. We stop making excuses, ask His forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those we have wounded, and then we allow the Holy Spirit to start changing us inside out.  The result of that admission – integrity.

Christians cannot live in the false comfort of excuses – “Oh, well everybody does …,” or “That’s just me…” or “I was born this way.” Our calling is to become holy, dedicated to God’s purposes for life. This is possible only when Christ is Savior and Lord, when sin is being overcome, when we are living with integrity.  The Word is clear about the importance of choosing our master.  Christ came to set us free from the broken natural state of humanity so that we overcome sin. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.” (Romans 6:11-13, NLT)

Are you holding onto some secret sin?
Do you refuse to respond to the Spirit’s invitation to get it right? 
Do you hate someone and resist confessing it to God?
Do you hang onto resentment, refusing to forgive with Christ’s help?

Guilt need not keep you captive. Shame need not keep you in the shadows. Regret need not be your destiny.  God’s invitation to us that we come to Him confidently to find forgiveness and to get cleaned up. The Word says, Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7, KJV)

Make integrity your desire. Get honest with God and yourself. The result is a life that is strong and blessed.

Here is a word from the Word.
“Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. …  
Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” (Psalm 112:1-8, NIV)

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with scoffers.
But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.
” (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT)

____________

Just Jesus

(a beautiful new song about our Hope)

There’s a fire in Your eyes
That burns through all my pride
There’s an altar in Your hands
For the laying down of my plans

Here I am now
And all of me bows
Simply and only
Just Jesus

There’s a whisper in Your voice
That cuts through all the noise
There’s a song inside Your heart
That tears every lie apart

Here I am now
And all of me bows
Simply and only
Just Jesus

You’ve reduced me down
To this one thing right now
And all of me cries out
For simply Jesus

Simply Jesus
Only Jesus

Mark Tillman | Sarah Tillman © 2020 Mark and Sarah Tillman Music (Admin. by Watershed Music Group)

CCLI License # 810055

Power and Privilege

Our Supreme Court wrapped up another year with some decisions that evoked concern or celebration, depending on a person’s convictions. Yesterday, 5 of the justices struck down a Louisiana law I thought was reasonable. But, I am not a judge, nor would I want to be. What a weighty position. Judges, from the Supreme Court all the way to a local municipal court, are entrusted to administer justice, to apply the law. They are supposed to be non-political, capable of discerning the facts of a case. She is to resist the demands of the mob as well as her own emotions, acting without bias.

Many people think that judges are like Judge Judy and those other ‘judges’ that are part of so-called ‘reality’ television.  We may find their outbursts amusing. The truth is that an emotional demeanor is not the ideal for a person who is entrusted with decisions that shape the lives of others, that hand down sentences.  Partiality and quick judgments may be entertaining, but this is not actual justice.

Now, why am I talking about this?  Because, my Christian friend, like it or not, you and I have a place of great responsibility in the world, given to us by God Himself.

Go with me to a Psalm that the Spirit inspired, words that must to convict us to act as God desires. The 82nd Psalm speaks to the people of God. The words are a compelling reminder of a weighty responsibility that is part of that privilege. Without some help, the message of the Lord can be lost in translation from the Hebrew to our English language.  Here is the Psalm of Asaph.

“God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”:
“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“They know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.”
(Psalm 82, NIV)

Let’s work to understand this text.  God addresses His people, (the great assembly) who were to represent Him and His justice on the earth. They are given the place of ‘gods,’ not the clearest English translation of the Hebrew word– elohiym  (el-o-heem’). It is a word which has multiple meanings. Elohiym is one of the OT titles of the Lord God but it is also a word used of princes, judges, or angels. The context shapes how we understand the meaning.  In that opening line, we read it used both ways:  God (Elohiym- the supreme Lord) has entrusted His people to be judges (elohiym) on the earth.

In that sacred responsibility they are to take up the cause of those who are without resources to defend themselves, administering the justice of the LORD GOD. “Defend the cause of the weak…. Maintain the rights of the oppressed … rescue the needy.”  But, God says that instead of showing insight and discernment, they have chosen to ignore the plight of those for whom they are to care. They have chosen to ‘know nothing,’  and as a result the world has descended into chaos.

The Lord reiterates His declaration about their great place of privilege, to administer His justice on the earth, a privilege that comes from their calling as His own family. He then tells them that they have failed miserably and therefore He has revoked their calling, consigning them to ‘fall like every other ruler.’  Here the Hebrew changes word for power and place, from elohiym to a word that speaks only to a place of earthly royalty, rather than divine commission.

The closing line becomes a prayer of response that turns to God to give justice, to remember that we all belong to Him. Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

Truthfully, I find that Psalm disturbing and pointedly applicable to my life right now.  God asks me (and you, my Christian friend) to act on behalf of those who have known injustice, oppression, and deprivation. We may be tempted to turn a blind eye, to retreat into the safety of our churches. In all the chaos, with all the propaganda that is thrown at us from every side, with the fury that fuels anything but a calm environment in which to ponder the most godly response, we are to act as representatives of the High Court of Heaven. It is a daunting commission, isn’t it? Like Paul, I ask “who is equal to such a task?”  

There is an assurance that we can do this.  Look! “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, NIV)  If we humble ourselves before Him, if we die to the impulses of our emotions, if we lean hard on the Spirit, He will make us competent.  “Oh, Lord,” I sigh, “this is a hard thing that You ask of me.”  But, it is a high and holy calling.

Quiet your heart. Focus your mind. Know Him.

Here is a word from the Word.  Spend a few moments soaking your mind in this truth and pray that God will make you a just judge, a person who represents Him well.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ  … this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11, NKJV)

_________

Abba, my God, each day brings more information about a world in chaos.
It is so hard to know what is true, what is right, Lord God.
Holy Spirit, secure my heart in You, settle my mind on Your truth.
Make me fearless in pursuit of Your cause, Your justice,
regardless of the pressures of the culture.

May I not just follow the loudest voices or the road that leads to
the approval of the crowd, but rather walk in Your path which is life and health and peace.
Jesus, You are my hope, my help, my security.

Teach me to give of myself, as You did,
‘seeking not to be serve, but to serve’ for Your glory.
Remind me often that the judgment that matters is not
what is handed to me by mere mortals, but that which
is wholly right in Your eyes. Amen.

The “new” normal?

Yesterday I looked out over a sparsely populated sanctuary with joy and sadness; joyful at the endurance of the church, sad at the impact of this pandemic on shared worship. How are you doing with the ‘social distance’ mandates?  A friend posted, “I’ll be honest. Not seeing some of you for 3 months has been an absolute delight.” Funny? Yes.  We are learning ‘new’ normal that will be around, I think, for a long time.

Some changes forced on us are probably overdue. Working from home, at least some of the time, is probably a trend that will stay with us. Renewing family ties is happening. Family dinners have returned to the schedule since there are less activities competing for time. Many have rediscovered the simpler pleasures of life. These are good things, I believe.

I hope that people will not decide that being part of a church is an option for their Christian life. The Church has taken a heavy hit in this era of COVID.  Webcasting is fine, but no real substitute for gathering. Zoom meetings for youth groups – ugh!  Few opportunities, if any, exist for teaching and training our children in church settings. Don’t misunderstand me. WE can practice our faith when ‘going to church’ is not possible. Christians have done that in times of war, pandemic, and political oppression many times in the past.

However, the ‘normal’ Christian life includes regular gatherings for worship, a shared experience of God’s presence and the gifts of the Spirit. My fear is that some will conclude, “I really don’t need church,” a choice which will have long-lasting consequence for their spiritual health and the vitality of Christ’s Body. Let me hasten to add – this is NOT a corrective word for those who are choosing not to be in the church building at this time. I really do understand that there are many levels of concern and that remaining away is not a signal of indifference about spiritual matters. Yes, I am concerned that for some this distance and disconnection will become ‘normal’ and acceptable in the long haul.

Here is what I know from the Word and a life-time experience:  Christians who live the authentic lives of faith, who are doing  best in service, are invariably part of a church. They may attend a little fellowship in the neighborhood or a large church. They might worship with choirs that sing anthems or sings songs of praise accompanied by keyboards and guitars. The pastor may wear a robe or a polo shirts. But, there is one common thread of the saints who pass the faith along – they are involved, organically connected as the Body of Christ

A personal spirituality that does not include meaningful engagement with the Church ignores the command of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. God called Israel into being, in order that they would become His holy people. They had a priesthood, a calendar of feasts and festivals, and commandments that directed their daily lives. Judaism was not a private experience, rather a holy nation.  God revealed Himself in the context of ‘the people’ who were His. 

With Jesus’ coming, a new Body was born, the Church.  No longer was it a matter of the right DNA.  Becoming part of God’s people, in the New Covenant, is about being born of the Spirit.  And, those who share the Spirit are together – neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NIV)  A timely word, indeed.

Within the Church, God’s Spirit equips Christians in different and complementary ways. Why? So that we will be a symphony, not a solo. The rich tapestry of faith is woven from the different threads we are each to bring, making something of beauty that exalts Christ. A healthy church, filled with Spiritual gifts and loving unity, is both wonderful and effective; the work she does beyond human endeavor. I am not blind, nor will I attempt to deny the ugly side of ‘church.’  As an institution of fallible human beings, she has endured her share of awful – corruption, greed, apathy, racism, and institutionalism to name a few of the ills that sicken the Body of Christ.

But, if we abandon the church for a private, personal spirituality, we turn our back on what Christ Himself loves.   The Word says that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing a her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  (Eph 5:25)  The purpose for the church is far beyond sociological. God’s plan is that we will show “ the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,  according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   (Eph 3:8)

Please, let’s keep this era of COVID and the distance it has brought to us from becoming acceptable or normal. Pray for the renewal of the Church. While you wait (appropriately) for the time you believe to be right to return to building, stay in touch with the Body. Use the blessings of communication to share encouragement, to pray for one another, to do the work of Christ in your home, your neighborhood.  Remember, we are always the Church even when we are not ‘in church.’

Here is a word from the Word. Pray that God will make it the vision of His glorious Church that she will make Jesus known to all. “We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, … He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. … Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:4-5, 11-13, 16, NLT)

__________

A prayer for the Church!

Build Your Kingdom Here
(Listen and sing along at this link)

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church

We need Your pow’r in us
We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captives’ hearts released
The hurt the sick the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause

We are Your church
We pray revive this earth
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back

Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here we pray
Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

Chris Llewellyn | Gareth Gilkeson © 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Who I was, I am no longer!

Yesterday, after supper, I drove up the mountain to Montana Cemetery. In one corner of that little acre there is a monument marking the place of my late wife’s burial. Next to marble slab another marks the graves of my mother, father, and little brother. The warmth of the sun’s slanting rays felt like a divine hug. The summer breeze blowing gently felt like Heaven’s caress. My heart was tender with memories. Using that amazing gift of recall based on the astonishing amount of information in my brain cells, I could ‘see’ their faces, ‘hear’ their voices again, if only for a moment. In that place of powerful memories, I do not only recall happy moments. Mixed with the sweet comfort of those good moments are the stabs of regret that come with recall of failures and missed opportunities.

While I cannot live in the past, remembering is important! Burke reminded us that ‘Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.’ Maya Angelou sagely observes that ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, it need not be lived again.’

An aside here – I believe that the current movement in America to forget or to erase the past is a mistake. It is important to remember our history well and with accuracy, learning from the mistakes, rectifying the injustices as much as we able to do so and to celebrating the successes. Who we are as a nation comes from the whole of our past – the good, the bad, the ugly. Without celebrating or excusing injustice, we can learn from it, seeking to make a new day.

Christian, we are often urged to live in the moment, but Jesus directed those who follow Him to remember; often.  The night before He went to the Cross, He celebrated the Passover Seder that the Jews have observed for thousands of years. It is a night to recall their suffering and God’s salvation. Jewish lives were spared by the offering of a lamb, the blood splashed on their doorposts an act of faith and obedience that caused the death angel to ‘pass over’ their homes. Jesus took those memories and made them a means of knowing His grace, a holy mystery. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20, NIV) “Never forget,” He says, “what I did on your behalf, the sacrifice at the Cross that reconciles you to God.”

Communion serves not only to remind us of our salvation. It is also a time to renew our appreciation for the Body of Christ into which we are called. When Christians take the Cup and the Bread together, it speaks to the fact that we are all, regardless of race, gender, or social status, on level ground at the foot of the Cross. We are sinners saved by grace, children of God, the Elect “who once were far away … brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13, NIV)

Disciple, remember all of it. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from God’s people, Israel, and you did not know the promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13, NLT)  I loved the poetry of Isaiah’s call to remember. “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” (Isaiah 51:1, KJV)  Isn’t that rich?  Yes, because of God’s grace, who I was, I am no longer.


Here’s a word from the Word. May the Spirit use it to remind you of God’s goodness.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes,
I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?”
(Psalm 77:11-13, NIV)
______________

“A good character is the best tombstone.
Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered.
Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

– Charles Spurgeon