Sunday, January 29, 2012

Only Grace

First, I must acknowledge that though I try to mix up the artists so that you get to hear a variety, this week I just have to share another Matthew West song.  Sometimes I know days ahead of time what the song will be for the week, but often I haven't decided, or I change my mind based on what I hear on Sunday morning at church and on KLOVE was the case today.

The song "Only Grace," is not a new one but it fits in so well with the sermon that I heard this morning and includes words about starting a new life which usually attracts my ears.  It's about losing the guilt and accepting the gift...

In Romans 5, Paul tells us about the sacrifice that God made for us, even though we didn't deserve it, we didn't love him, we didn't believe in him, we even sinned against him.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5: 6-8

Jesus suffered the most excruciating death for us, without us even knowing it.  His death has paid for our sins no matter what they are, and is bridging the gap between our sinfulness and God's purity.  It's like he is reaching out his hand to us and saying, "it's OK, I've taken care of all your junk, don't worry about it anymore, now come be with me." 

What's amazing to me is that he has given this gift  to everyone, to all of his creation, whether we know it now or not. 

In him we have redemption through blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavishes on us.  With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Ephesians 1: 7-10

He wants to be connected to us, he wants to be with us, living through us here on earth.  As with any gift though, the receiver needs to accept it.  I pray that you have accepted it.  This gift changes your life.  If you have accepted it, are you still feeling guilty, unworthy?

There is no guilt here
There is no shame
No pointing fingers
There is no blame
What happened yesterday…has disappeared
The dirt has washed away
And now it's clear

The pastor in church today told us, "God already did this for us, it is done!"  and Jesus said "It is finished." (John 19:30).  God has given us this gift, he's not still thinking about it, still mulling it over to see if you deserve it...he already decided that you do!  So don't feel guilty about the gift, just rejoice that it was given to you.

You're starting over now
Under the sun
You're stepping forward now
A new life has begun
Your new life has begun

An’ there's only grace
There's only love
There's only mercy and believe me…it's enough
Your sins are gone
Without a trace
And there's nothing left now
There's only grace…

As we accept this gift we are faced with a new in which we aspire to be the children that God wants us to be, desire to serve our intended purpose, strive to show God's love to everyone around us. 

Unfortunately, even though we have accepted His Grace, we are still not perfect, not totally pure and we will mess up.  But His grace still lingers, it lasts, and so we can recover from our failures and keep trying to live the life that God wants for us.

And if you should fall again
Get back up, get back up
Reach out and take my hand
Get back up, get back up
Get back up again

My prayer for you today is that you receive God's grace over and over again.  Do not be plagued by guilt for receiving this gift or for feeling like you've failed God.  He forgives you, and wants you to accept His gift with joy.

God bless you all, have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Learning to be the Light

You have my husband to thank for this week's song...I was worried that I wouldn't find a video for it, it's fairly new and I couldn't find it....but my hubby did!  This week's song is by a great band called NewWorldSon, and I'm amazed that I haven't posted one of their other songs already.  The song is called "Learning to be the Light," and you'll probably recognize that it's a bit of a follow up to last week's song and a reflection of what's been going through my heart and my brain these last few weeks. 

OK, so we know that Jesus was the light of the world, there's numerous Bible references to this, songs that we sing ...even today in Church we sang "Here I am to Worship," which begins...."Light of the world, you stepped out into darkness, open my eyes, let me see..."  He brought and continues to bring light to a dark world.  But we can bring light to this world too....and Jesus wants us to!  Do we need to go back to our childhood..."this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"?

This past week I was studying the beginning of Acts, before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven.  He says:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1: 8

I talked last week about how when you are living life the way Jesus taught, you can feel an energy, a power...and it's such a wonderful feeling when you realize that this is the Holy Spirit alive within you....the Light within you.  This power can give you abilities that you didn't think you had, skills that enable you to do things you thought you were never meant to do. (On a personal note, who would have thought that a former engineer who struggled in english classes in college would be writing a blog about God and music 15 years later?)

But what makes you want to be the Light? to be a witness? These words capture it so well:

It's so much brighter living in your world
Savior what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone to see

When you feel God's grace, when you receive the hope that comes with it, you're living in a brighter world, and you will want to share it.  Whether it's talking about God's love with someone, or showing them God's love through you're own heart.  It's not about's about loving.

When a heart is cold as ice
You can't melt it with advice
No one wants to listen to
A list of things they shouldn't do
So I build a city on a hill
And I light a candle on the sill
Knowing you'll be always knocking at the door
Oh God I just want to love on everyone
All I have is yours to give so let the people come

We're all on a journey here, still learning, struggling, and hopefully growing.  I hope you will take this challenge with me and learn to be more of a Light in this world.  It's definitely not easy all the time, but it's what Jesus wants us to be, and I think he knew it would improve our lives here on earth.  I like to think of it as a privilege, a blessing, an honour to have been given this knowledge and Light so early in my life that I don't have to live as much of my life in darkness.  Let's share this blessing with the world around us.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Own Little World

This week's song was really popular about a year ago.  It had special meaning to me because I was working with our youth group at church to start thinking beyond themselves, to think about people in other parts of the world living in extremely different conditions.  And now today, I find that this song is still sending me an important message that I can use in my daily life. 

The song is called, "My Own Little World," and it's performed by Matthew West, one of my favorite artists who still continues to inspire me. 
In simple terms, I continue to remind myself that Jesus' message was to love God and love people.  So easy to remember, but not necessarily easy to do.  This song reminds me of some verses from one of Jesus' parables.  He is talking about what it will be like when the Son of Man comes in his glory:

The King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Then the righteous will answer him. "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Matthew 25:34-40

Today in church, a man unexpectedly stood up to share a story with the congregation.  He talked about how he had been in the city and someone had approached him asking for some spare change.  The man shared that he just continued walking and did not give the stranger any money (I'm sure he's not alone in his reaction and response).  He then shared with the congregation that he later realized that the man who approached him was Jesus.  He didn't tell us how he knew this, but he talked about his feelings of regret and remorse.  He knows that he will be forgiven, but is stuggling with this awful feeling of having failed God.

God wants us to love each other, he wants us to be compassionate for each other.  It seems like it's so hard to do sometimes...especially with strangers.  These one-on-one encounters with strangers also require a level of trust.  To trust a stranger in a dangerous world....that's tough.

I do believe that we can experience the Kingdom of God when we are in service of others.  I believe that loving God's creation ignites the Holy Spirit within us.  I've felt it myself.  At times when I've been serving others, making a difference in someone else's life...outside my own little world, I've felt so alive, so charged with energy, so alive in Christ. 

But then there are seasons in life when I am less alive, less filled with the Holy Spirit, more focused on myself.  I have to admit right now, with this new life that I have started in the UK I am not in balance.  I have been so focused on my own little world, my life, my family, our challenges and problems which are so minor relative to others in this world.  I've just come to the conclusion that I need to expand my world.  This song has been telling me that over and over, every time I hear it, and now it's finally sinking in.  I need to be more active in bringing God's Kingdom to earth. 

So I share this song with you today, just in case you're feeling like me right now...unbalanced, consumed with the issues of your own life.  Perhaps God is calling you to look outside yourself.  I don't know about you, but I'm going to give it a try.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Love Never Fails

This week's song has been around for a while..."Love Never Fails," by Brandon Heath.  Yesterday my husband walked in the door from work and told me how he was listening to this song and wondering about all those people out there who have suffered pain because of love, how is it that "love never fails."  "Oooh," I thought, "that's a really good question, and something that would make a great discussion."  I then proceded to tell him how I interpreted the song, and those words.  Have a listen, and then I'll share with you my thoughts....

It's true that I have listened to this song when I was dealing with feelings of disappointment about someone I love.  When I felt that my love wasn't reciprocated in the same way.  And that's what my husband's question was about, what about people who love someone so deeply but never receive that love in return?  Is love failing them?  The way that I interpret those words, "Love Never Fails," is that true perfect love is God's love and it is that love that never fails us.  His love will never fail us.  His love is something that is an example of what our love should be like, though it may be impossible for our love to be as perfect as His. 

So when I listen to this song and think about the hurt that I have felt from someone that says they love me or the hurt that I have caused someone that I love, I am reminded that this humanly love is far from being that love that God has for us.  It is not perfect, it will fail us sometimes.  But we can aspire, dream, hope for loving relationships on this earth that will come close to that perfect love.  And if we don't ever find those relationships, we know that we do have the greatest love of all, that of our Maker, our Father, our Counselor.  Though our circumstances that cause us pain may not change the way we want them to, God is always there for us to cry out to, to hold us, to be the ever-forgiving Father that we need. 

This song for me is an extension of the words that likely inspired it, from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres.  Love never fails.
1Corinthians 13: 4-8

Love is not proud, Love does not boast, Love after all matters the most
Love does not run, Love does not hide, Love does not keep locked inside
Love is the river that flows through, Love never fails you

Love will sustain, Love will provide, Love will not cease at the end of time
Love will protect, Love always hopes, Love still believes when you don't
Love is the arms that are holding you, Love never fails you

Love is right here, Love is alive, Love is the Way, the Truth, the Life
Love is the river than flows through, Love is the arms that are holding you
Love is the place you will fly to, Love never fails you

As I read this again, I realize that I should read this every morning.  If we were to have these verses be our commandment in our daily lives, how different would our lives be? 

May you read these words, listen to this song, and be renewed about the meaning of love, what true love should be.  I pray that you are encouraged, that though it sometimes seems that we are not loved as much as we desire, we are always loved unconditionally by our Lord.  And if we do our best to share His kind of love with those around us, we can truly impact the lives of those around us, and our own as well.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

You Love Me Anyway

With the arrival of another New Year, I am drawn to think of the past year, the great things that happened, the challenges, my failures, what I want to change for next year.  So with all this reflection, some of which is a bit sad, I am so uplifted in knowing that despite my failures, I am starting the new year with the love of Jesus Christ.  And what's even more uplifting is that I know I have started every year with His love, even when I didn't know it, and I will have His love every year, and every day to come.  Despite all my mistakes, there is nothing I can do to make God love me less.  He has shown me this, proved this to me through the sacrifice of His Son. 

And so this week's song is by Sidewalk Prophets, and it's called "You Love Me Anyway." Watch, reflect, and enjoy....

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5:6-8

May you realize that in this new year, God loves you and wants your heart, just as you are.  He always has and always will.  We can all work to improve ourselves as disciples, as people, to be more like God's son, but it is not to earn God's love....He already gave us that long ago.

God bless you in 2012!  As an extra treat, here's the official video of "You Love Me Anyway" performed by the Sidewalk prophets.  Enjoy!