My Chains are Gone

“My chains are gone, I've been set free!  My God, my Savior has ransomed me, And like a flood His mercy rains.  Unending love, Amazing grace”

This version of Amazing Grace always makes me think of my Uncle Jerry (he would hate it if he saw me calling him that! J).  One reason is because we played it at his funeral last summer, but the real reason it makes me think of him is the very reason we chose that version to play.  You see, this song describes him to-the-tee.  My mom and uncle grew up in a Christian home with ever-faithful Christian parents.  Yet somewhere along the way, he lost himself in the cares of the world and was lost for many years, until one day he found himself lying in a hospital bed.

All it took was one moment of true surrender, and he found God’s amazing grace again.  All it took was one moment of lucidity in the weeks of his declining life for him to accept the Lord’s gift of salvation.  From that moment on, his chains were gone.  He was set free.  God paid the ransom for his sins, and the Lord’s mercy rained like a flood.  “Peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7) washed over him and he experienced the presence of the Comforter (John 14:26-27).  What an incredible moment it must have been when he was united with his Heavenly Father and his earthly father at the pearly gates.

All it took was one moment.  True surrender.  Unending love.  Amazing Grace.

Have you taken this moment with the Savior?  Do you know the power of His grace and mercy?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
(Romans 3:23-24)

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
(Ephesians 2:4-5)

 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
(2 Corinthians 4:15)


How Merciful the Love

Tonight, I was struck by how MUCH God loves us.  Truly, it’s amazing.  His love is so pure and free.  He loves us freely, gracefully, unconditionally, mercifully.  Think you’re a failure? Don’t worry, God loves you.  Think you’re unworthy?  Well, we all are, but God still loves us.  Think your sin is too great? God loves you enough that He sent his son to die for you in your sin, even though He already knew the sin you would commit.  God’s love is great and it covers a multitude of sin, failures, shame, depression, guilt and every trial to ever come your way.

But, I digress.  Tonight I was struck, not just by how much God loves us, but that in being a Christian, or Christ-like, we are supposed to love others in the same way.  We are supposed to love unconditionally, no matter what wrong has been done.  No. Matter. What.  1 Corinthians 13 has always been one of my favorite scriptures, and I know we have all read it hundreds of times, but tonight I challenge you to really read it.  Soak in the words.  Meditate on their meanings.  Put them into practice- in your family, in your jobs/schools, in your day-to-day life, in passing a stranger on the street.  Show God’s love, no matter what.  (and know that I am preaching to myself more than anyone else!)

Love is patient.  With that Doctor that makes you wait 2 hours.  With that car that wants to drive 30 mph in the fast line in front of you.  With that place you want to be in your life, that seems like it’s taking everything you have and all the time you have.  Patience.

Love is kind.  With that person that is rude to you.  With that person that drives you crazy.  With that person that wronged you.  With that stranger who needs just a smile to be encouraged to keep fighting the good fight.  Kindness.

Love does not envy.  With that family that seems to have it all.  With that person that just seems to always get what they want.  With that person that doesn’t have to work hard to be beautiful or successful or happy.  Do not envy means being happy for them and being satisfied with what you have.  Contentedness.

Love does not boast.  When your family is the one that has it all.  When you always get what you need and want.  When you buy that dream house or car.  Even when you work so hard to achieve great things.  Meekness and thankfulness.

Love is not proud.  Love has no ego.  Love is not arrogant.  Love means we are not stuck up because we know that we unworthy.  That the first will become last.  That we are all servants.  Humility.

Love is not rude.  Love means we are gentle and caring with others.  We look to minister to the needs of others.  Love erases frustration and rudeness and replaces it with kindness and patience.  Compassion.

Love is not self-seeking.  Love means you put the needs of others before your own.  Love means selfless acts.  Love means doing good for others without looking for something in return.  Love means being a servant of others.  Love means looking out for one another and lifting each other up.  Selflessness and thoughtfulness.

Love is not easily-angered.  When that loved one does that thing that you told them not to do.  I found a great devotional on the Love Chapter that says “Love…cannot be held back by disappointment. The power of love is unstoppable and does not know of any hindrances to it.”  How many times have we been held back in our love because of anger or unforgiveness?  Joy and peacefulness.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.  With that person that offended you.  With that person that mistreated your family member.  With that person that just simply made a mistake.  Love does not remember all past sins and bring them up in every new fight.  Forgive and forget.

Love does not delight in evil.  Love is shining God’s light.  Where there is darkness, there is no light, therefore love cannot coexist with evil.  The light of love overtakes the darkness of evil.  Love delights in doing good, in doing the Will of the Father.  Righteousness.

Love rejoices with the truth.  Love does not spread lies and gossip.  Love seeks the truth in every situation.  The truth brings us closer to God and reveals the love He has for us.  Even when the truth hurts, love is honest, sincere and trustworthy.  Truthfulness.

This whole description of love is summed up in verses 7-8.  "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresLove never fails."  Love like Jesus.  Shine His light in a darkworld.  Show this love to others, whether they deserve it or not, and you will be worthy to receive the same love in return.

Every word I read describing true love in Christ makes me say “Ouch.  How have I failed in that one, let me count the ways!”  Not rude, always kind?  Ouch.  Always patient?  Ouch.  Not easily angered?  Major ouch. (Sorry hubs- I am really trying to work on that one!!)  But the truly amazing thing about Christ’s love is that all we have to do is say, “Hey, I’m sorry for that way that I failed You.  Please help me to be better in that area.”  And how great is our God that He WILL help you!  He wants us to be good.  He wants us to show His love to His people, so why wouldn’t He help someone with a truly repentant heart turn from their wicked ways?  God’s love is great and merciful and it never fails because failure is not a part of God’s nature.  He is the only unconditional, everlasting love in the world.

For links to a few of the songs that inspired this post:
“Pure” by Kari Jobe


Eclipsed by Glory

Ever hear a line in a song that just sticks with you and is revealed to you in a new light?  Well this is one of those moments.  Yesterday as we were singing “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan and one of the lines, though I have heard it hundreds of times, just cried out to me.  But first, a little back-story.  I am a newlywed.  In this day and age, that means I am poor…ok not poor, but on a strict and tight budget.  You get back from your amazing week-of-bliss honeymoon with your new husband and what is there to greet you?  Bills.  Mortgage.  Electricity.  Gas.  Cable.  Internet.  Car payments.  Insurance.  Tithes.  And our new little addition: School loans.  Not to mention, it seems like every time we turn around, something comes up and someone is billing us for something unexpected or my huge family will decide to have all their birthdays and weddings in a 5 week span (I am only teasing- I love all of you!).  All of this adds up to a stressful life if you’re not careful. 

So, back to the song.  First of all, it’s one of my favorite worship songs.  I love how it reminds me just how much He loves me.  This particular Sunday, I was just struck by one of the lines in the first verse: “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory."  Can you imagined being so focused on God's glory and love, that the cares of this world are just forgotten?  It reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures throughout college: Romans 8:18- “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  In light of God’s glory, in light of His Great Love for me, my sufferings, my stress, my worries are nothing.   He loves me enough to sacrifice his one and only Son so that I would not have to die in my sin.  Do you think He would go through all of that just to leave me hanging?  Just to let me get eaten up by a few bills?  No way!  God is my Provider!  He has promised not to put more on me than I can handle, and that includes the stress of a newlywed, budget-centered life.  All I have to learn to do is cast my burdens upon Him and He will sustain me (Psalm 55:22).  We are learning how to cut corners here and there and have come to find that, when we put God first (i.e. pay our tithes faithfully) we always have enough.  Even when logic (and math) say “if you give up that 10%, you’re gonna be 10% short at the end of the month”, we always come out on top. 

God’s love is unconditional and everlasting.  Whatever present you may be suffering through, remember that future Glory that God will reveal in you and it will far outweigh this measly little obstacle trying to get in your way.


He's so Good to Me!

I have been reflecting the past couple of days on how good God has been to us.  It has been a summer full of Blessings and miracles that only God can do!  Just to name a few...

1- Jehovah Jireh, My Provider 
I am getting a promotion at work, which is not only great because, hello, it's a promotion, but it's actually something I enjoy doing.  I am an analytical, attention-to-detail type of person.  The Lord has brought me to a place in my career at EOG where my job description is to actually be the OCD person I am!  How great is that!  Most people who know me know that I worked at EOG as a contractor for over 2 years.  I felt discouraged that no matter how many times my boss promised me that I would be hired on as a company employee, something or someone always stopped that from happening.  I felt unappreciated for the work that I was doing.  I felt frustrated.  I didn't have insurance which meant I could never go to the doctor when I was sick and that I had to continue dealing with the bunion I had that was giving me a lot of pain.  Well, God is always on time.  "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

One month before getting married, I was finally hired!  Just in time to get myself and Brock some much needed insurance and benefits.  Just in time to get paid vacation hours for our honeymoon.  What a blessing to be able to enjoy a week in Hawaii with my new husband without worrying about the money I would have been losing on pay day.  Now, a few months later, my hard work over the past 3 years is paying off and I am getting promoted!  God is Good, All the Time! (Shout out to Mary Carter there!) :) I feel appreciated.  Accomplished.  At Peace.  Encouraged.  Blessed.

2- Jehovah Rophe, Healer and Jehovah Shalom, my Prince of Peace
I have seen God's healing hand this year!  I believe our church, Diamond Oaks Worship Center, is a place where miracles happen and prayers are answered.  

First- In December, one of our members (a Sunday school teacher) was in a terrible accident.  She suffered so many injuries that I can't even remember them right now.  She was in the hospital for weeks and our church was getting everyone we know to pray for her life and her healing and recovery.  Now, she is one of seven people EVER, to survive an internal decapitation!  She is back teaching her Sunday school class which I know makes her happy.  She is such a joy to everyone she encounters-and what a great testimony she has!

Second- A few weeks ago, my very best friend went to have a mole removed from her leg.  The next day the doctor called her back into his office and told her it was melanoma.  When she told me, I was kind of speechless.  This is my best friend, the sunscreen queen.  She can't have skin cancer.  How is that possible?  She was referred to an oncologist and he quickly scheduled surgery for the next week.  The ladies of our church all decided to set aside time to fast breakfast and pray one morning.  While I was praying, I was reminded of the father in Mark chapter 9 who asks Jesus to heal his sick child saying "If you can".  Jesus replied, "If you can?  Everything is possible for him who believes."  The man replied, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief".  I started to pray this prayer "Help my unbe--" and I stopped myself right there.  I realized, I didn't have any unbelief in this matter.  In my soul, I believed that God would heal her.  There was no doubt in my mind that she would be cancer-free.  So fast-forward a few days and it is surgery time.  I had to work so I just asked her husband or mom to let me know when she was out of surgery.  Well, almost 2 hours pass from the time her 45-minute surgery is supposed to start and I have not heard from anyone.  I start to get a little uneasy.  I have had praise and worship music on in my office but wasn't really paying attention to it.  The very next words that a sung say "Be still my soul, be still.  Wait patiently upon the Lord.  Be still my soul, be still."  Once again, God is always on time!  I was immediately at peace again.  Well, she had her surgery and although she may still be in pain, the reports have come back- she has no cancer in her body!  Praise God!

Ok, this has been a really long post and I can assure you that future blogs will probably not be this long :) but I just had to give God glory because he is Mighty and Worthy to be Praised!  So if you're in a state of waiting, doubt, discouragement, worry, or (I could go on and on) anything that does not speak Peace right now, be encouraged!  Have faith that God can do what He says He can do! (Beth Moore, Believing God- Great book!)  Know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him!" (Romans 8:28).