Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see."(John
the time of his death at the age of 82, John
Newton never ceased to marvel at the grace of God that transformed him so
completely from a slave trader to a minister of the Lord.Shortly before his death he is quoted as
proclaiming with a loud voice during a message, “My memory is nearly gone, but
I remember two things:That I am a great
sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!”What amazing grace!
Behind the words of Jesus and the memories about
Him, there shines forth a self-authenticating portrait of a real person in all
His human uniqueness, an impression which is accessible alike to the layman and
to the expert, to believer and non-believer.No reader of the gospel story can fail to be impressed by Jesus' humble
submission to the will of His God on the one hand, and His mastery of all
situations on the other; by His penetrating discernment of human motives and
His authoritative demand of radical obedience on the one hand, and His gracious,
forgiving acceptance of sinners on the other.There is nothing, either in the Messianic hopes of pre-Christian Judaism
or in the later Messianic beliefs of the early Christian Church to account for
this portrait.It is characterized by an
originality and freshness which is beyond the power of invention.
We are to administer, or
"dispense," God's grace... The image brings to mind one of the
old-fashioned "atomizers" women used before the perfection of spray
technology.Squeeze a rubber bulb, and
droplets of perfume come shooting out of the fine holes at the other end.A few drops suffice for a whole body, a few
pumps change the atmosphere in a room.That is how grace should work, I think.It does not convert the entire world or an entire society, but it does
enrich the atmosphere.
Now I worry that the prevailing
image of Christians has changed from that of a perfume atomizer to a different
spray apparatus: the kind used by insect exterminators.There's a roach!Pump, spray, pump, spray.There's a spot of evil!Pump, spray, pump, spray.Some Christians I know have taken on the task
of "moral exterminator" for the evil-infested society around them.
I share a deep concern for our
society.I am struck, though, by the
alternative power of mercy as demonstrated by Jesus, who came for the sick and
not the well, for the sinners and not the righteous.Jesus never countenanced evil, but he did
stand ready to forgive it.Somehow, he
gained the reputation as a lover of sinners, a reputation that followers are in
danger of losing today.As Dorothy Day
put it, "I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the
-- Philip Yancey in What's
So Amazing About Grace?
The greatest need of any person is
to be known and loved. The cry is strong; the human desire is deep. "I
want to be somebody. I want my life to count." Closely related to the
feeling of worth is the perception of who we are. When we esteem something or
someone, we highly value it or the person. To esteem ourselves is to have high
regard for ourselves. Many of the problems in human relations stem from a
person's lack of self-esteem.
[However,]... our worth and value is
given. We are called not to muster it up within ourselves, but to receive the
gift given to us, a gift of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. God has declared
our value. Our value is not rooted in self-esteem, based only on ourselves. Our
value is discovered in grace, which is rooted in the greatness and graciousness
God's love makes it possible to know
we are valued. We cannot put ourselves down or debase
ourselves. We can know our true worth because we are children of God. Our
esteem is rooted in the amazing grace of God. Our esteem is grace-esteem.
assured, if you walk with [Christ] and look to Him and expect help from Him, He
will never fail you.As an older brother
who has known the Lord for forty-four years, who writes this, says to you for
your encouragement that He has never failed him. In the greatest difficulties,
in the heaviest trials, in the deepest poverty and necessities, He has never
failed me; but because I was enabled by His grace to trust [Christ] He has
always appeared for my help.I delight
in speaking well of His name.
invite you to consider two alternatives and their consequences. One of them, to
paraphrase atheist Bertrand Russell, is "You are the product of causes
that have no purpose or meaning. Your origin, your growth, your hopes, fears,
loves, beliefs are the outcome of accidental collections of atoms. No fire,
heroism, or intensity of thought or feeling can preserve your life from beyond
the grave. All the devotion, all the inspiration, all the labor of all the ages
are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system. The whole
temple of human achievement must inevitably be buried in the debris of a universe in ruins. That's what we're all
Or you can choose this:
"You are the uniquely designed creation of a thoroughly good and
unspeakably creative God. You are made in His image, with a capacity to reason,
choose, and love that sets you above all other life forms. You will not only
survive death, but you yourself were made to bear an eternal weight of glory
you cannot now even fathom and you will one day know."
Last spring I had a
memorable day. My daughter graduated from college, I turned fifty years old,
and I spoke at her commencement -- all on the same day. But the most memorable
line of the day involved none of that. A man named David Winter had been
president of her school for over a quarter of a century. Toward the end of his
term, as he was looking forward to retirement, he suffered a disease that over
a period of three weeks robbed him of his sight. As we processed up to the
graduation platform, he had to hold the arm of another to guide him. And in his
words of greeting to the students and parents, he said, "Never doubt in
the darkness what God has shown you in the light."
may think the burning issue of life presently is to get our marriage in order.
Or get on the right career path. Or get our finances straightened out. But as
important as these pressing issues are, our greatest need must be to become
absorbed with the glory of God. Why? Because only those who are consumed with
God will be internally changed and, as a result, see their marriages, work, and
finances put right.
"[Jesus] said to him the third time, 'Simon, son
of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third
time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You
know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.' " (John 21:17 NKJV)
I wish they would remember that the charge to Peter
was "Feed my sheep", not "Try experiments on my rats", or
even "Teach my performing dogs new tricks".
if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36 NIV)
am entirely ready to have the chains that keep me bound be broken.I am entirely ready for the walls I've built
around myself to be torn down.I am
entirely ready to give up my need to control every situation.I am entirely ready to let go of my
resentments.I am entirely ready to grow
is really an attitude, which means it is possible for anyone to be greedy.
Whether you have a lot or a little, you will always want more. Credit only
becomes the vehicle for fueling our greed. At its root is a lack of contentment
with the provisions of God. Unlike the apostle Paul, we have not become good at
being content in whatever state we find ourselves.
Bruce Howard, Chair of WheatonCollege's Business and
Economics Department, in ChristianityToday.com
Finding words to adequately define the promptings of the
Holy Spirit is no easy feat.Promptings
are mystical.They are phenomenal.They are intangible.And they're real.In fact, promptings have been present in the
lives of Christ-followers since Jesus left his bodily form on earth and
ascended to heaven.Remember?That was the day when He sent the Spirit of
God to take up residence in the heart of every believer."You will receive power when the Holy
Spirit comes on you," He said. (It should clue us in to the challenging
nature of our mission that Christ would need to send a permanent source of supernatural
power to assist us.) But what exactly was this power all about?The rest of the story from Acts 1:8 explains
that Christ-followers have a mission while here on earth.They are to be Christ's witnesses all over
this planet.It's as if Christ said,
"Think you're missing the book smarts, the street smarts, the looks, the
talent, or the speaking ability to accomplish this mission?Don't be concerned with those things, because
you have my mountain-moving, life-transforming, death-defying power on your
"...a woman who honors the Lord deserves to be
praised." Proverbs 31:30 (CEV)
The Bible is filled with the accomplishments and witness
of mothers who honored the Lord by devoting themselves to God, as they
sacrificed, took risks, experienced heartache and loss, as well as the joy that
comes from putting trust and hope in the Lord God.
Sarah and Elizabeth became mothers at an advanced age;
Hagar served as a surrogate mother; Naomi became a grandmother following a time
of hardship and family distress; Hannah promised that she would dedicate her
child to the Lord; the events surrounding the birth and ministry of Jesus show
His mother, Mary, at His side; unnamed mothers made bold requests on behalf of
women who are great examples of passing on the gift of faith are Lois and
Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy, who then spread the faith
throughout his life as a companion of Paul. It was these two women who
instilled in Timothy the power of God by who they were and how they lived.
Timothy's upbringing was grounded in the Holy Scriptures.
Therefore, on this Mother's Day, let us praise remarkable
women of faith -- those from Scripture and those we have known face-to-face. It
is because of them that we have been brought to a knowledge of life well-lived
in the Lord.
-- Rev. Dr. Paul Irwin, President, American Bible
When my children were very young I came across a
biography of Susanna Wesley, mother
of John and Charles Wesley. I was thinking about this book the other day, and
how that when I read of her life I was truly inspired. Susanna
birthed possibly nineteen children, schooled them all herself, (homeschooled)
and raised her children to be devout Christians. She kept a well-run household
by herself, without the help of servants, (if I remember correctly). She ran
this household strictly and orderly with the older children helping with the
younger ones and each given responsibilities as soon as they were able. The
children made bread, sewed and learned to do many other necessities from an
early age. This was all done in the days of growing and preserving their own
food, making everything from scratch, making their own candles for light,
making their own clothing, usually after making their own cloth! All without
modern conveniences, of course! John and Charles Wesley, as adults, gave much credit to
their mother as the molder of their character and of their souls. It is said
that John and Charles Wesley together won tens of thousands to the Lord,
preaching the gospel of the grace of God. And thus, Susanna
Wesley lived to see the fruit of her labor. Proverbs 31:28 says of the virtuous woman, "Her
children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises
Belonging to a learning faith community provides companionship that sustains us through difficult experiences. Nothing is as disheartening as a lonely struggle. Many communities and congregations are too large for people to know others well, and so it's in the intimacy of small groups - classes, Bible studies, choirs, prayer groups – that we learn each others' names, pray for one another, and learn to care for one another. Christian companions become the people God uses to sustain us through the ordinary ups and downs of living, and also through those times of extraordinary darkness and grief.
-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living
think that in Heaven we will be lying back on a bed of clouds, plucking harps,
adjusting our halos, and singing "Kum Bah Ya." Personally, that
sounds pretty boring to me. Heaven is an exciting place! A place of dynamic
ministry, stimulating activity, and expanded horizons.
NOTE: Family and friends celebrated my
Dad's 90th birthday with two parties over the weekend. As friends
and family gathered what came to mind was that he has been blessed, over nine
decades, to be a blessing -- to his family, to his friends, to his church, to
his work, to his country (serving in WW2). Blessings on my Dad, Don Wilkinson.
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
lay down our lives sometimes means that we are to surrender the littleness of
who we think we are in order to be the greatness God created us to be. All the
blessings in life happen to us as they happen through us.Be the blessing, so that the blessings can
increase, develop and grow. "Today, I consciously bless everyone I
Emily in Our Town who signs her address as: Grovers Corners New Hampshire United States
of American Western Hemisphere Planet
of God In the mind of God… that's about as significant as you
can get, whether you sit at a typewriter, behind the wheel of a bus, at the
desk in a classroom, in a chair by your kitchen table… or lay in bed and
pray.Your life is hidden with
Christ.You enrich His inheritance.You are His ambassador.In Him your life has depth and meaning and
purpose, no matter what you do. Peter Kreeft has said, "The point of this life…is to
become the person God can love perfectly, to satisfy His thirst to love.Being counts more than doing, the singer more
than the song.We had better stop
looking for escape hatches, for this is our hatchery." It's my prayer that… you will discover the significance
that has been yours all along as a child of the King.You may not be able to know the meaning of
every event, but you can know that every event is meaningful. And you are significant.
I found there are several reasons – but the first is all
we really need to know.God has told us to pray.It is a commandment, and if we love Him, we obey
But there is a second reason: We pray because Jesus prayed.Sometimes people will say the only reason for prayer is that we need to be changed.Yes, we do need to change, but that's not the
only reason to pray.Jesus didn't need
to be changed or be made more holy.When
He prayed He was communing with His Father.He thanked God.He praised Him.He asked for things.He requested power.He prayed on behalf of others.He asked that the devil be bridled.He asked His Father to prevent what was about
to take place.He made clear His own
will.He prayed as though His petitions
had a definite effect on God's design.
In light of God's clear commands and our Lord's
unmistakable example, it's obvious we believers "should always pray and
never give up" (Luke 18:1).God
does not want us to shrug our shoulders, shuffle our feet, and mutter, "Que sera, sera, whatever will be,
will be."On the contrary,
Scripture makes it plain that we are involved
with this life of ours -- and the lives of others as well.Certain things simply will not happen… unless
Remember that . . . the journey of growing in Christ
never ends.It is a journey that will
take us through this life and the next, a road that takes us ever deeper into
that love that came down at Christmas until, as Charles Wesley put it, we are
"lost in wonder, love and praise."
-- Larry R. Kalajainen in An Advent Journey(Nashville,
Tenn.: Upper Room Books, Used
George Frederick Handel's Messiah was first performed in London, England,
on March 12, 1743.The king of England
was present for the premier, and he was deeply moved by the time the
performance reached its climax with the "Hallelujah Chorus."At the words, "For the Lord God
omnipotent reigneth," the king could not contain himself any longer.
Overwhelmed by the music and lyrics, he rose to his feet, and the entire
audience joined him.They remained
standing throughout the remainder of the chorus.
From that time on, it became the custom for audiences to
stand whenever the chorus was performed.Queen Victoria,
however, was advised shortly after she ascended the throne, not to stand when she went to hear Messiah.Her advisers explained that the appropriate protocol was for her to
remain seated, regardless of what other monarchs may have done in the past.
As the chorus began and the singers were proclaiming, "Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth," Queen Victoria remained
seated, with great difficulty.Then, as
the chorus began to proclaim Him the "King of kings and Lord of lords"
she rose suddenly and stood with bowed head, as if she desired to take her own
crown from her head and cast it at His feet.
In the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords we
can do nothing less than stand in awe and praise at His majesty and bow before
Him in worship.The glory of the Lord
cannot be compared.It cannot be
fathomed.It is higher, more awesome,
more wonderful, more majestic than anything we can comprehend with our finite
mind and limited senses.The glory of
the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.
Once we catch a glimpse of who is making a way for us out
of our time of trial, all else will fade away.The more the Lord becomes the focus of our desire and our praise, the
more our problems seem to dissipate.