Grace Amazing

Our summer meal was light: Chicken Caesar Salads. A sharp contrast to our heavy dinner conversation…..

“Do you mean to say that if Hitler had asked God’s forgiveness and received Christ, he’d go to heaven?”

I nodded. The expression on my guest’s face told me If that’s true, life’s not fair.

It’s True, based on scripture: “By grace, we are saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). If we can earn our way to heaven, then why the Cross?

But I agree, it’s not fair if a man who exterminated people like cockroaches can be forgiven and receive eternal salvation. Who in his right mind would want to absolve Hitler or his henchmen? May they rot in hell….wouldn’t that be justice?

As we washed salad bowls, I thought about God’s grace — the power to save a human soul. Yes, even the souls of leading Nazis who were the most hated men of their time.

The Cross and the Swastika by F.T. Grossmith (Pacific Press Publishing Assoc.,1989) tells what happened to Hitler’s men during their last months in Nuremberg.

US Army Chaplain, Major Henry Gerecke was assigned to them as their spiritual adviser. Dealing with Hess and Goring wasn’t easy, but the chaplain prayed for the ability to love Hitler’s gang and share the hope of Christ. “He saw several of his ‘congregation’ come to Christ before he accompanied them to the gallows.”

This testimony of God’s all encompassing grace reminded me of a television documentary. Prison inmates dressed in starched white uniforms, clean-shaven, with cropped haircuts, stood onstage. Their voices rose in unison as they sang the Christian hymn Amazing Grace. 

What hideous crimes had they committed to become society’s prisoners? And yet, by God’s grace, these men’s hearts were transformed from criminals to saints.

Nazis, Convicts, Myself….all guilty, to some degree, of breaking God’s law.

Trusting Christ as our Savior…..all pardoned and cleansed, by the blood of Jesus. And His finished work on the cross.

No one is beyond God’s redeeming grace.  And that is amazing!

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” Psalm 51:7

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9

Balloons and Bikes

Festive balloons that once floated in the air to celebrate my birthday now huddle on the floor. The helium is gone; they’ve shrunk in size, resembling pastel Easter eggs.

 Some days, I feel like a deflated balloon. Someone or something lets out my air, slowly or with a sudden bang, and I’m face down with nowhere to look, but up!

God’s grace is sufficient, His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9) Really, if so, then how do I respond to life’s circumstances?

Do I lift a limp fist and vow to rise again on my own strength?  Or seek God’s presence: empty, ego deflated; hands open wide to receive His grace and power?

Last summer, I went with my family on a bike ride. We didn’t realize the dirt path to the lake was predominately uphill. We spent more time pushing the bikes than we did riding them. Red-faced, I fussed at my daughter’s athletic boyfriend who chose the route.

At one point, the path flattened and we jumped on our bikes, pedaling with all our might until…..there was another incline. This time, the boyfriend rode his bike beside mine, and placing his hand on my lower back, pushed me forward while we pedaled. I was depleted, but I could continue the journey because I relied on the boyfriend’s strength. His strength was mine. And I understood how… 

Every circumstance is an opportunity to rely on God’s strength, experience grace sufficient for the moment.

 Trusting His Spirit to fill me, lift me higher and higher until I’m buoyant as a helium balloon rising in the sky; joyful and free in His presence.     

 

 

 

  

 

 

    

God’s Grace is Enough

It’s Communion Sunday. A time of repentance, remembrance, rejoicing.

Repentance ~ Silver plate passes in front of me. I take the bread, symbol of Christ’s broken body. Next comes the fruit of the vine, poured in thimble-sized, plastic cups.

Lord, I don’t deserve this. I’m not worthy.

But still, God loved me enough to send His Son, Jesus to ransom me

So I eat and drink in….

Remembrance ~ For this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

Can’t comprehend the magnitude of God’s love, can’t fathom the cost.

But still, I raise my hands and …

Rejoice ~ that God’s grace is enough. I’ve been purchased with His own blood. (Acts  20:28)  and “nothing can separate me from the love of God.” (Romans 8:38,39)

It’s a truth I’ll need to cling to because

That same day, I’m on a walk when a turkey vulture circles overhead; in search of death, a hearty meal.

I think of my “adversary, the devil, who prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Not knowing, that someone is me.

While the sweet fruit of the vine lingers on my lips, I trespass once again. And in a blind moment, God’s grace and love appears dim as I listen to the enemy’s accusations.

Karen, You are not worthy. 

I weep, knowing my best can’t close the gap between my filth and God’s holiness.

But still, God loves me. And His Spirit that dwells within me, because I am purchased by His blood, guides me to a passage that confirms His benevolent grace.

In Zechariah 3:1-4, Satan accuses Joshua, the high priest of Israel, who stands before the angel of the Lord wearing filthy garments. Instead of defending Joshua, God says, “Remove the filthy garments from him. See, I have taken your iniquity from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”  

God’s grace is enough.

Tears cloud my vision, as I read verse 8 aloud, “Behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch…and I will remove the iniquity….”  

“The Branch,” Jesus the Messiah, who “was crushed for our iniquities” (Psalm 53:5)

Crushed for MY iniquities, and brought

Reconciliation ~”God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. “ (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Defeated, the enemy slinks away in silence; his tail between his legs.

Elated, I rejoice once again that my perfection is based on my relationship with Christ and not my petty performance.

Touchdown


I’m snuggled beneath warm sheets when my alarm clock pesters me to rise and shine. I stumble out of bed, sleepy-eyed, and head for the kitchen. Friends are coming to our house after church to watch televised football games.

First order of business: brew myself a hot cup of French-pressed coffee. Within minutes, my full cup sits idle on the kitchen counter while I hurry through my to-do list. If there’s one thing I know about my “men folk,” they want their appetites fed the moment they walk through the door on Sunday afternoons. So I melt Velveeta cheese, make a taco bean dip, and dice lettuce and tomatoes for our Mexican feast. 

Husband and son stroll into the kitchen ready for church as I rush by them to get dressed. But when I re-emerge from the bedroom with Bible and purse in hand, I’m informed there’s a change in plans.

Our company canceled.

Seriously?

Self-centered thoughts surface and swim in my head like blood-thirsty sharks. What about all the food? Do we invite someone else? I wish I’d known an hour ago.  

Instead of lending a voice to my thoughts, I apply scripture. I put a “guard around my mouth” (Psalm 141:3) and “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)    

 


   

   After church, my husband stands in the kitchen scooping tortilla chips into the quesadilla dip. “Tastes good, Karen. I’m sorry our friends couldn’t come, but you’re handling it well.”

  His comment makes me grow two inches taller. “You’re right, especially when I consider how easily I got frustrated last week. Do you know why I didn’t get upset today?”

“Why?”

I point to my Bible laying on the kitchen counter next to my cup of cold coffee. “I’ve been in God’s Word and prayer for the past few days. It makes all the difference in my attitude.”

My husband hugs me and heads for the man cave to watch the kickoff. I stir Chicken Tortilla soup that’s been simmering in my crockpot for hours. Its variety of spices, amplified by heat and time, has created a culinary delight.  

The slow process reminds me of my spiritual sanctification. There’s no such thing as microwave holiness. Sanctification, becoming more like Jesus, is a life-long process.

So today’s change of plans and my response is another opportunity to “be conformed into the image of Christ” and “bring Him praise.”

My husband turns up the television volume as I ladle hot soup into three bowls. There must have been a touchdown because I can hear the fans cheering through my wall. I imagine the football player who scored is raising his arms in victory. 

I love the similarity to my life.

Okay, so I fumbled the ball last week. It’s not the end of the world.

Nothing’s wasted.

Even though some days seem like baby steps, I’m learning how to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10).

Today is Sunday, the beginning of a new week, and when I compare my calm reaction today with last week’s critical spirit, I know by God’s grace……

I scored a touchdown.  And that’s something to cheer!