Two of the themes I considered for this month were sin and grace. Sin convicts us, and grace restores us. This hymn captures both sides of the equations.
It was written by Julia Harriette Johnston (1849-1919). the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who served First Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Ill. Julia was the author of several books and many Sunday school lessons, as well as about 500 hymn texts. “Grace Greater than Our Sin” is probably the most well known and well loved. Listen and give thanks for God’s grace in your life today.
Nancy Guthrie is a mother who has lost two children — she knows about empty . Using sound, biblical examples she illustrates how God fills our emptiness with His provision, His presence, His grace, His kindness and His life, as well as meaning, faith and joy.
You’ll journey with the Israelites in the wilderness, grieve with Naomi, fear with Habakkuk, rejoice with the Samaritan woman, lament with Jeremiah, be comforted with Mephibosheth, be challenged like the rich young ruler. You’ll learn that while emptiness can be painful, it is also an opportunity to live out what you believe and to discover what you really need. It can be a time of learning to trust God as we wait for what He has planned for us.
All of us sometimes experience feelings of emptiness and loneliness. According to Guthrie, these times may be:
“… meant to serve as an invitation into something we should actually pursue at great cost — intimate fellowship with the God who made us and is with us.”
This short book is clearly written and would be a helpful resource to those who are hurting and hoping to heal from any sort of loss. It emphasizes the truth that God is always with us, and working for our good.
“There is a grace of kind listening, as well as a grace of kind speaking. Some men listen with an abstracted air, which shows that their thoughts are elsewhere. Or they seem to listen, but by wide answers and irrelevant questions show that they have been occupied with their own thoughts, as being more interesting, at least in their own estimation, than what you have been saying. Some interrupt, and will not hear you to the end. Some hear you to the end, and the forthwith begin to talk to you about a similar experience which has befallen themselves, making your case only an illustration of their own. Some, meaning to be kind, listen with such a determined, lively, violent attention, that you are at once made uncomfortable, and the charm of the conversation is at an end. Many persons, whose manners will stand the test of speaking, break down under the trial of listening. But all these things should be brought under the influences of religion.
In my previous post I told our readers how much I enjoyed the Christian movie, Breakthrough, so I thought I would also share one of the songs used in the film. This praise song was written by Phil Wickham with worship leader Jeremy Riddle and Josh Farro, the former guitarist of Paramore. In 2015 CCLI recognized it as the most sung praise song in the North American Church.
“The best way for a man rightly to enjoy himself, is to maintain a universal, ready, and cheerful compliance with the divine and uncreated Will in all things; as knowing that nothing can issue and flow forth from the fountain of goodness but that which is good; and therefore a good man is never offended with any piece of divine dispensation, nor hath he any reluctancy against that Will that dictates and determines all things by an eternal rule of goodness; as knowing that there is an unbounded and almighty Love that, without any disdain or envy, freely communicates itself to everything He made; that always enfolds those in His everlasting arms who are made partakers of His own image, perpetually nourishing and cherishing them with the fresh and vital influences of His grace.
Sin is the basic human nature. The term “original sin” is used to describe the tendency to sin which is born into all human beings. This sin is inherited from Adam and Eve, because they ate from the tree of knowledge, against God’s command. When Adam rebelled, his nature and that of all of mankind after him became sinful. Romans 5:12 says:
“…sin entered the world through one man.”
Everyone was born with a sinful nature, but Romans 5:19 says:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
The answer to original sin is redemption and salvation. Through Jesus, the Son of God, all Christians, and those to come have been redeemed, or saved from sin. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross to deliver us from sin. There is no other way to overcome sin than by the power of the Holy Spirit, a power that is received when one becomes a child of God. Christians are to not only recognize their sinful nature, but repent and ask for forgiveness of their sins. Proverbs 28:13 says:
“Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Original sin is something all humans are born with, and it brings the consequences of ignorance, death and suffering. Man is only saved from sin by the grace of God. The Bible provides many verses that speak of redemption and remind Christians that their sins are forgiven through the death of Jesus. Isaiah 44:22 says:
“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
In the sermon last Sunday, my husband talked about having a Christian worldview. A study by Barna research revealed some disturbing results. Only 9% of American adults answered the questions in a way that indicated they hold a biblical worldview– even sadder, only about 1 in 5 of the people who described themselves as “born again” hold such a outlook!
Well, you might be saying, what were those questions? Maybe they were tricky, or too theological or difficult to understand. I’m going to post them below. They look pretty basic to me:
Do absolute moral truths exist?
Does the Bible define absolute truth?
Did Jesus lead a sinless life?
Is God an all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe and is He still active in the world today?
Is salvation a gift that cannot be earned?
Is Satan real?
Do all Christians have a responsibility to share their faith with others?
Is the Bible accurate in all of its’ teachings?
If you answered “no” to some of these questions, the culture may be influencing you more than your Bible. If you said yes to all these questions, are you living as if you really believed them? There can still be a gap between our intellectual assent and our actions. As saints, we’re called to be Christ’s ambassadors, and an ambassador represents a different country than the one in which they live.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
As sinners, we’ll often fall down. Our transformation is incomplete. We say we believe one thing, then behave as if we don’t. Every day we need to pray:
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:21
Ask God to give you a saintly worldview and the strength to live in its grace.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods’ varied grace….” 1 Peter 4:10
My devotional reading today was on the book of Jonah, and I’m actually going to be teaching about that book in adult Sunday School in a few weeks … funny how God sends us these little messages, isn’t it? He knows just what we need at any given time. Anyway, the gist of the article was grace. God extended His grace to Jonah, even though he was a sulky and reluctant prophet. He saved him from the belly of the whale, he sent a plant to shade him … Jonah didn’t deserve those things. He tried to run from his calling. He wasn’t very appreciative of Gods’ care. The very worst thing about Jonah — although he accepted Gods’ grace, he was angry when God extended that same grace to the people Jonah hated, the Assyrians.
I think there’s a lesson in this. In the verse above, Peter calls us stewards of Gods’ grace. We’ve all received gifts. I know that I have certain talents, and I also have my health, a good bit of free time as a retiree, an adequate income. Since all these are gifts of Gods’ grace in my life, I need to share them willingly when I see a need. In fact, I should be excited when I can spread some of Gods’ grace around. Most of all, I should be excited to share the good news of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. That’s truly amazing grace.
Unfortunately, I’m often like Jonah. I may be willing to share with those I love, or those I find deserving. I’m less willing to share with people I don’t know, don’t like or find unworthy in some way. Why should I serve them? They don’t deserve it and may not appreciate it. However, here’s the thing — it’s only grace because we don’t deserve it. If we could earn grace, we wouldn’t need God (or anyone else) to give it to us.
So today, let’s spread some grace around: lend a hand; forgive; bake some cupcakes for your neighbor; give up your place in line. You need it; I need it; everyone needs it, whether they know it or not.
I actually wrote this years ago as part of a devotional given out to participants on a Via de Cristo retreat weekend. It seems appropriate to share this month.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
You’ve all seen the bumper sticker reminding us that bad things happen in our lives, things we can’t control and don’t expect. I may not approve of the language, but I’m not immune to the feelings behind the sentiment. It seems only too true. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to me. And I don’t like it. It doesn’t seem fair. There are days when I feel like Elijah, sitting under his broom tree, begging God to take his life. I’ve had enough of this life, too. I want to give up. I can’t see through the dark curtain of despair the world has cast around me.
But recently I spotted a car sporting a Christian alternative to that worldly message of doom and gloom. It read simply, “Grace Happens.” That was a moment close to Christ for me, a powerful reminder that in the midst of disease, death, divorce, discouragement and all the other unpleasant facts of life, God is there. His grace happens to me over and over. It happened on my Via de Cristo weekend. It happens every time I gather with my wonderful church family. It happens when I feel the love of my husband and children. It happens on the job when the Holy Spirit prompts me to encourage someone through my Christian beliefs.
Life hasn’t changed. It was difficult for Elijah, confronting the prophets of Baal; it was difficult for Jesus, facing death on the cross; it’s hard for me, too. But grace happens. It happened then and it’s happening now. I need to remember that.