A diamond is most effectively displayed against a black background.
Total darkness is needed in order to see the stars in all their glory.
This gem shines in the center of the bleakest of books, as Jeremiah wept over the total devastation of his beloved land:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
And Habakkuk’s triumphal climax arises from a scenario of total ruin:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (3:17-18)
Lord, help me to remember that my little candle can make a bigger difference as the darkness closes in around us. May it shine brightly until the dawn of Your return!
If you watch a movie that shows people in a church situation, chances are that any hymn sung will be “Amazing Grace.” And according to the news, “Amazing Grace” was sung at a recent memorial for victims of the theater shooting. Why this song?
Sure, it’s a wonderful song. It tells of the total depravity of the human race. And of God’s unexplainable kindness that pities and saves the undeserving sinner and sees Him safely to heaven where he will enjoy unending bliss—just because God is like that!
What baffles me is why this song is so popular in this age when people don’t want to admit they’re sinners—or that God is totally good—or that He even exists, for that matter. Do people listen to the words they’re singing? I’d love to hear your ideas on this!
Six stanzas of “Amazing Grace” are given below. The fourth and fifth are not included in many hymnbooks, but I wish they were.
Amazing 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.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
I just turned 60. In the country where I live, I’m now a “senior citizen.” I also received my Golden Buckeye Card from the Ohio Department of Aging. Wow!
Am I old or not? When we visit older people, they exclaim that I haven’t aged a day in the past few decades! When we visited our grandchildren, 4-year-old Lillian declared “You look like a grandma.” When asked what a grandma looks like, she said, “An old lady.”
Does it matter? I’m on a journey. Traveling from conception to heaven. How much of that has been covered by now? I have no idea. But with every birthday (actually, every moment), that goal gets nearer. What an exciting thought.
But in the meantime, I sometimes struggle about how much to care about learning new things or trying to make a difference when my efforts resemble swimming upstream. I am reminded of Paul’s resolve and commitment to keep on pressing toward the goal for which Christ had chosen him. (Philippians 3:12-14) And how can I refuse to do the same? God, give me resolve, strength, wisdom—and joy in the part of the journey that remains!
By the way, here’s a photo of me (2nd from left) and some dear friends who surprised me the other day to celebrate this milestone.
Time with God is like…
…Setting my clock to “real” time after it’s gained or lost a few minutes.
…Calibrating my scale to give an accurate reading so I won’t run into trouble with an overweight letter that won’t go beyond the post office or overweight bag at the airport.
…Tuning my piano.
In all of these, there is a perfect standard that must be conformed to. I might try to fool myself into thinking that I’ve got leeway (time or weight) by adjusting my clock or my scale to suit myself, but that won’t make any difference to the officials who operate by absolute standards.
So why do people fool themselves by trying to change the absolute standards that God has established? For me, that daily “reality check” in God’s presence will help me stay true.
Here are excerpts from the lyrics to a song I ran across. Pretty poignant.
We say, “Show me, and I’ll trust You”
God says, “Trust me and I’ll show You.”
We say, “Heal me, and I’ll praise You,”
God says, “Praise me and I’ll heal you.”
We say, “Bless me and I’ll follow,”
God says, “Follow and I’ll bless you.”
We say, “Change me and I’ll love You,”
God says, “Love me and I’ll change you”….
You’ve got to put first things first, get your heart out of reverse,
for the highest will be servants, and the lowest will be kings…
(Words by Claire Clonginger, copyright 1987 Paragon Music and Word Music.)
I’m always fascinated by those “before and after” pictures. Once I decided to submit myself for a free makeover at a well-known business that specializes in this. I went in looking like—well, myself. And came out looking like-–well, my husband says a witch! I had to agree. Finding the nearest restroom, I washed it all off. It was so not me!
I was reminded of this the other day when reading about the ultimate makeover in Colossians. Here’s the procedure God has performed and how He sees me:
Before: You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. (1:21)
After: Now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ …. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (1:22)
And the perfect wardrobe to go with that makeover?
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.…Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-15
I wonder what others see when they look at me…? The “before,” the “after” or the “still becoming”?
From the poor to the posh, we have experienced it all in the past few days. And grace in it all!
First we visited a very poor community where we had lived for a number of years. Old friends and partners in ministry met us with smiles, open arms, and generous hospitality. Out of their poverty they gave their best, with their love. We were profoundly touched by their stories of God’s faithfulness—and theirs—through the years. And with churches overflowing with enthusiastic worshippers. What a thrill it was to hear them singing their hearts out to God in their own language!
Then after a ride to the city, we were thrust immediately into another kind of gracious hospitality—that of the well-to-do. These people, though we had never met them before, gave us a royal welcome because of a family connection between one of their relatives and one of ours. The word “grace” came to mind repeatedly during those three days as we enjoyed their beautiful home and were taken to restaurants and tourist sites with all expenses paid. The mention of their name was the magic key—a reminder of God’s lavish grace available to us through the name of Jesus.