Posts Tagged Christ
“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee . . . .” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)
The Apostle Paul had a physical thorn that affected his entire being. We are never told what it was–only that the “enemy of his soul” sent it to buffet him and to frustrate his life. Scripture records, it was so troublesome that Paul sought the Lord three times to remove it, but each time the Lord said, “Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee . . . .” The Lord was saying, Paul, My Grace is adequate to meet the needs of any situation or proposed end. My unmerited favor occurs in such measure and scope that it fully meets the demands, needs, or expectations of any problem. My Grace is equal to whatever you now need or will ever need. My Grace is satisfactory, suitable, in the amount needed, and to the necessary degree, for whatever you are going through or will ever go through. Paul, My Grace is all you need–It is ENOUGH for you.
These past years have taught me that God allows thorns to humble us lest we boast in other than the Cross of Jesus Christ. And He allows crucial situations and circumstances lest we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think or somehow believe we are the source of our blessings!! Like Paul, I have a physical thorn. At first, I thought, it was a punishment for something I had done wrong, but now I know it was to teach me about the sufficiency of God’s Grace for my life. Now, when I get haughty or begin to feel sorry for myself–I gaze at my thorn and understand that it is not a curse, but a blessing that God allowed to display His Glory. It was given to remind me “I am not my own.” It was never about me and was always about Him. As Paul has said, “. . . our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 (NIV)
Today, I am a witness that “the Will of God will not take me where the Grace of God cannot keep me.” God’s Grace has been sufficient to get me through storms, recessions, unemployment, loss of loved ones, friends, and even health. I have grown stronger through what I have been through and am trusting in the Lord to get me through whatever else comes my way. So, I now boast in my weakness, for I know when I am weak, through Christ, I am truly strong. As Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “I could complain because “rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”And so, I choose to rejoice in knowing that Yes, God’s Grace IS sufficient. IT IS ENOUGH — In fact, it is MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR ME!
I feel nostalgic on holidays, birthdays, rainy days, and yes, even Mondays. My mind retreats to bygone days and simpler times. I especially remember the “firsts” in my life. There is something remarkable about “firsts.” I believe they are precious and Divinely inspired. “Firsts” happen only once and are irreplaceable.
I particularly remember my first love. I was 10. My heart pounded when I thought of him. I couldn’t wait to see him—hear his voice. We’d talk for hours about nothing in particular. I loved this feeling and I wanted it to last forever.
There’s something remarkable about first love–it is not sexual or sensual—it is sacred and pristine. It is like what the old Ivory Soap slogan promises, “99/100 percent pure.” There is an innocence about it that makes it beautiful. In first love, we give our hearts totally, trust completely, and hope fully. There is no second-guessing—we simply love and are grateful for love in return.
But somehow, we get caught up in the external trappings of life and love is lost—leaving us with a huge void in our hearts that causes us to wonder what went wrong with what we thought was perfect and real, and we spend our days trying to rekindle the feeling of first love.
The Church at Ephesus was enthusiastic in the beginning. Their hallmark had been their love for Christ and for one another. They loved to worship, they loved to fellowship, they loved teaching and being taught. Then their love waned, the thrill of service diminished, and they abandoned their first love.
As Christians, we can never forget our first love and the way we loved at first. We must always remember when we first saw the light; recall when we first believed; and, that the heart of the God that loved us first — anxiously awaits to take us back!!
“But by the grace of God I am what I am . . . .” 1 Corinthians 15:10
I was a plain Jane, living on a street the length of one block that was only large enough to be called an “alley.”I am the eldest of four siblings who at the age of 5 was the only one of the children to be rescued by my grandmother from the threat of foster care. I have no delusions about who I am today or about how I got to this place in my life. God has indeed been good to me. I have been “allowed” many amazing accomplishments that can only be credited to what I respectfully call the “G” word the (“Grace” of God)!!
I call it the “G” word because preachers don’t preach about “Grace” anymore. No one speaks about God’s gift of love. No one boasts of God’s unmerited favor towards fallen human beings. That is why I echo and re-echo it throughout my Blog and have included it in my pseudonym. It is because whenever I revisit those places of growth and pain in my life I am reminded of who and whose I am. And that I am what I am because of Christ. I give honor and credit where they are due. I readily admit that what I have accomplished is not because of how I look, what I have, or my intellect, but because God willed and allowed it to be so. Were it not for the hand of God, I could have suffered a heart attack, stroke, or simply lost everything, at any time. I know whatever I am is not because of any goodness of my own it is all because of God’s Grace.
The thief of our souls came to steal, kill, and destroy, but God’s love and “mercy said no, I will not let them go.”We can never pay for the gift of life, but we can continually praise the Giver throughout our lives. Thank you Father for the Gift of your Son. Thank you for your amazing Grace that saved a wretch like me. I will continue to write, boast, teach and preach about Grace to let the world know that I know I never could have made it without you.
Nothing in this life is by happenstance. Everything is intentional, on purpose, and because of the Grace of almighty God. Were it not for that “G” word — Grace — God’s unmerited favor in the sacrifice of His beloved only Son, where would any of us be? From my grandmother’s knee and all the places in between, I am certain there was an unseen hand that kept me. I know, without a doubt, I am what I am by the THE GRACE OF GOD!!
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (RSV)
WHY ME? is a question I’m sure Job (a perfect man) asked as he was losing everything. Surely, the Apostle Paul asked it many times during his perilous missionary journeys. No doubt, even Christ’s own Disciples asked it as they took up their own crosses and followed the Savior. And, I am certain it is the question that each of us whether rich, poor, Christian, or not, asks ourselves when we experience sickness, suffering, or loss. I have asked it many times, but strangely, never while being Blessed. Nor, have I asked it while happy, healthy, and whole. Not once did I question my privilege, but I always questioned my pain.
Why does it take sickness, disaster, and tragedy, before we look beyond our own concerns and truly see the suffering of others? And why is it when we witness or even hear about others’ needs, we automatically want to do something. Without a second thought, we want to give something. We want to lend a hand, many times, to the very person(s) we would ordinarily pass on the street without even a smile. How strange human nature is. It needs the “ugliness”of life in order to see the “beauty” in life. And before we decide to help we must see hurt. Why does it always take the suffering of others to see how Blessed we are? Is it because when we look on it we suddenly realize: it could have been . . . it should have been . . . and, but for the grace of God, it would have been you or me?
In the midst of all I have witnessed and in taking a personal inventory, I admit to many times feeling sorry for myself and asking why me, only to be reminded that “I am not my own — I was bought with a price.” I am God’s creation, made for His glory. It has never been about me — it was always about GOD. In my moments of reflection, I understand how truly Blessed I am just to be alive. And, with gratitude, I smile and humbly submit that I belong to the one who KNOWS ALL things and CONTROLS ALL things, and gives me the courage through every challenge to sincerely ask myself the real question — WHY NOT ME?”
“LORD, THROUGH all the generations you have been our home!” Psalm 90:1 (Living Bible)
Lately, I have thought about the concept of “home” — the “ideal” and the “reality.” I think about the home of my youth (the quaint house I grew up in). The house where, from the bedroom, I could hear my grandmom singing her favorite hymn, every morning just before her prayers. Downstairs in the kitchen, I see my father (the Chef) percolating coffee as he prepares one of his amazing breakfasts, and hear him whistling his own favorite hymn. There was nothing particularly notable about the house — it was the love that emanated from the building that housed the wondrous music of the joyous hearts of those I loved, and it was especially the words of the hymns, that honored the One that I loved with all of my heart. No matter where I traveled or for how long, I could hardly wait to return. There was something magical about that modest space. I have lived in many houses since then — most more beautiful, but none as special. Nothing equals what I felt within those walls. Nothing compares to the peace, security, and calm reassurance I experienced there.
What is “home” really? Is it a building? Is it a feeling? Is it a person, a place, a thing? I am not sure, but clearly, it is special. Why else are there “home” keys on computers; “home” bases on baseball fields, and even “homing” pigeons, etc.? For me, “home” is shelter from the harsh realities of life. It is where I find comfort, contentment, and rest. It is where I unwind and forget the tedious toils of the day. It is where I can take my tired body and aching spirit directly to the welcoming mat of my Father’s heart.
The Psalmist is saying, “God is the home for the human heart and the human heart becomes a home for God.” With God, there is no threat of loss through disasters, foreclosures, or evictions. Never a concern of homelessness — only periodic bouts of homesickness. The building is sound. The foundation is stable and the walls cannot crumble. No thieves can ever break through or steal. What joy to know that GOD IS OUR HOME! Saint Augustine, said it best, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee . . . .”
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“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” John 3:16 (New International Translation)*
Finally, after many years of preaching and teaching, I can now truthfully say, I fully understand “God’s redemptive plan of salvation.” I see clearly now that the cross was not merely a postlude to Christ’s passion, but was the prelude to an abundant new life in Him. Yes, He was crucified. He died and was buried, but more importantly – He was raised!
Unfortunately, it is not until this time of the year that I honestly recollect that the One who had no sins accepted mine –that the Son who had never been separated from His Father chose to die not just for my sins but for the sins of the entire world. By God’s Grace, Jesus, knowing the end before the beginning, did not shrink from His purpose to endure the cross. I am truly grateful that He sacrificed His life so we could live and I acknowledge the incredibly wonderful thing He has done!
During this season especially, I recollect those fateful days of Jesus’ great sacrifice. How His Disciples abandoned Him and His solitary walk to His destiny. I picture Him praying in the Garden and imagine His painful cries to His Father. I envision His suffering on the cross. I hear the mocking crowd of His enemies saying, “crucify Him” when only a few days before cried “crown Him.” I see one hurting who spent his last earthly days, healing and helping. Forgive me Lord, when I forget and boast of anything but your Cross. Please allow me to honor you by saying, “thank you for your compassion and your faithfulness.” “Thank you for exchanging your life for mine, and most of all, thank you for being the way to eternal life!” Mere thanks-giving seems such a shallow and inadequate expression to the One who gave His all, so I will honor you Lord with “thanks-living.”
John 11:25, 26 (NIV) records,“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die . . . .” This truth empowers me to press through and to continually praise God in the face of every challenge, struggle, or loss. It reminds me that “all things are possible with God and that nothing can separate me from God’s Love–not even death” (Romans 8:37-39)!!
I was particularly moved by this video of the last public performance of my favorite Gospel artist, Bishop Walter Hawkins, who passed away shortly afterwards. It is not a performance, but an offering to his Creator. Bishop Hawkins faithfully used his gifts to honor and glorify God to the day he died. The man and the message exemplify total faith and trust in God and God’s care for His children. Someone has wisely said, “Life is God’s gift to us—what we do with it is our gift to Him.”
Father, I appreciate and proudly celebrate the glorious wonderful, marvelous thing you have done. Have a Blessed Resurrection (Easter) Sunday. Celebrate yourselves — celebrate each other — celebrate the gift of life, and most of all — celebrate the Giver!
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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
St. John 14:27 (New International Translation)
As I sit at my desk watching the tree on my front lawn move furiously in the wind — a tornado watch has been issued and the dark clouds look ominous. Suddenly, my computer screen fades to black and the higher speed internet I just ordered is indicating that the system is down. I have to postpone again — this already late post I am entitling “Perfect Peace.”
I continue to wait for the system to restart and I reflect on the past week that has been particularly Blessed — all plans flowed effortlessly. But today, as I attempt to get back on schedule and to write this post — things are falling apart. Could it be a reminder that when all is well with me and mine that I simply take life for granted? Could it be that I have been so busy being busy that I forgot to remember what is truly important to the Lord? I have not listened to the news. I have not thought of the wars and other disquieting situations at home and abroad — that is: not until this hour of angst in my own world. As I continue to wait and reflect on God’s goodness — as suddenly and abruptly as they began — the winds calm, my tree stills, the sun returns and so do the lights on my modem — lesson learned! Peacefully, I get back to work. Isn’t it amazing how the Father gets our attention!!
Jesus tried to tell His disciples from the beginning that this day would come, but they would not hear Him. He knew they were upset by the talk of betrayal and the thought of His leaving them. He knew what they would face in the coming days, and He was concerned about the effect his death would have on them. So, He tries to get them to understand why it has to happen. Jesus knew His time was at hand and the end had come, but He was ready for it. We saw in the Garden, how He dreaded the pain, but we also saw how He kept His eye on the joy beyond the pain. That is the picture of “peace in its perfection” that He bequeathed to them and to us.
During this High and Holy season of celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, let us remember amidst all the chaotic noise and constant upheaval of this world, we (His followers) own a legacy from the “Prince of Peace!” “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)