"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 11, 2011
"Amazing Grace" is a hymn that probably most everyone has heard at one time or another, regardless of whether or not they have ever attended church or even if they choose to not believe in God or deny His existence. It is a timeless song that has been recorded by both gospel and secular artists. To many it's just a pretty song with pretty music. But I wonder how many of us truly understand what the grace of God is.
My sister, Janie, and I were visiting a while back and were discussing the topic of grace. Growing up in a pentecostal church, we heard a lot of hell, fire and damnation sermons. We heard sermons that put fear in our hearts and made us feel as if God was looking down waiting to strike us down if we made a mistake. Let me say, these were good men who were pastors and evangelists and they had good intentions. But that was the typical type of preaching you heard if you attended any pentecostal service.
I remember going to bed at night when I was just a little girl, and would lay there scared to death that Jesus would come back and I'd be left behind because I'd done something wrong, and had failed to repent of it. I would lay there praying, "Please Jesus, forgive me of all my sins, and if there's something I've done that I didn't know about, forgive me of that too." Janie said that she did the exact same thing. I remember lying in bed afraid that the rapture would take place and everyone would go, except me. There were times when I'd go in and check to see if Mama and Daddy were still in bed, if I couldn't hear Daddy snoring.
Janie said she remembers asking Mama one time, "What happens if you mess up but don't mean to?" Mama's response was, "Just make sure you don't mess up."
I do remember people coming to the altar and getting saved, but there also seemed to be a few who constantly seemed to struggle. They wanted to live right and do what they were supposed to, but I think perhaps it seemed as if it was too difficult and they just couldn't do it. Perhaps they felt that the standard was set too high and they could never be that good or live that perfectly.
Let me preface this by saying that I loved and adored my parents and am thankful for my upbringing, and I'm not saying anything derogatory or negative about them or their parenting. Many of their rules were ones that a lot of other parents set for their kids. And a couple of them were probably set for us because of my dad's parents living close by and it was easier to have us abide by them instead of Daddy arguing with grandma, who was a very outspoken woman. I know that Daddy and Mama loved us girls and did the best that they knew how teaching us and bringing us up, and I have to say that we turned out pretty good!
Having said that, there were a lot of rules. And a lot of those rules were taught almost as if they were a biblical principle. We were not allowed to wear slacks, and wore dresses no matter how cold or snowy it was outside. (I think that may have been more of a Grandma Horton rule). Girls were supposed to dress like girls, and that meant wearing dresses. I was so thankful when culottes (split-skirts) were popular in the 1970's, because we were allowed to wear those. We were not allowed to go see movies. We could not go to bowling alleys or skating rinks, because of the type of music played there (at least I think that was the reason). For a while, we were not allowed to go out to eat at the first pizza place to open in Kimberling City, because they served alcohol. They didn't serve beer on Sunday's so we started going after Sunday evening services with a group from church. We were not allowed to get our ears pierced. We didn't have a TV in our home, until I was in my late teens.
I think perhaps the thinking was, if parents and the church set more rules and boundaries, then the kids would be better behaved and not get into trouble. Or perhaps it was trying to get us to know right from wrong and to be able to draw the line between worldly and Christian activities. Or perhaps our parents and pastors were doing the best they could, and were using the same guidelines their parents used for them.
But I saw many young people struggle during their teenage years. They enjoyed going out with their friends and doing things that were against their parents and the church rules, but then they'd feel guilty and come to church and repent. Or they'd come back to church and hear a sermon on hell and it would scare them into repenting. And there always seemed to be those individuals in the church who took on the self-appointed role as "God's jury", judging and condemning those who did not live up to their standards or who made mistakes or wrong choices. God did not place them in those roles, but they decided that was their "Christian duty" to bluntly point out the sins and failures of others. I believe it caused a lot of hurt in the lives of many individuals. Perhaps a young man or lady sinned and got caught or had consequences to deal with; instead of offering love and forgiveness, those few self-righteous people heaped more condemnation and guilt upon their heads. No wonder they wanted nothing to do with the church! It must have seemed to some that the church was a harsh group of people who pecked away at the fallen, instead of a place of healing and forgiveness. Some probably even felt as if the church was full of hypocrites. Hurtful words and actions are often remembered and never forgotten.
One topic I don't ever remember hearing sermons preached about is grace. God was depicted as being a harsh judge ready and waiting to punish us. I don't recall ever hearing God described as a loving Father, who was daily extending His mercy and grace to us.
So what is grace? One of the dictionary definitions is: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
We can't earn God's grace. We don't have to struggle to be good enough or work hard enough or do enough good deeds to deserve God's grace. It is a gift that He freely gives us, even though we are undeserving. God doesn't have a "three strikes and you're out" policy. But His mercies are new every morning! All we have to do is ask and God will freely give to us His awesome grace and mercy. What an amazing gift!
Ephesians 2:8,9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." The Amplified Version says, "For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgement and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves -- of your own doing, it came not through your own striving -- but it is the gift of God; not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any man should boast. It is not the result of what any one can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself."
Titus 2:11 says, "For the grace of God -- His unmerited favor and blessing -- has come forward (appeared) for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind." What is the purpose of God's grace? "It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (verses12, 13)
Titus 3:4-7 goes on to say, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."
Romans 3:10 tells us that "there is none righteous, no, not one." None of us were born spotless and without sin. We were all born with a sinful nature to do wrong and disobey God. And for some of us, that sinful nature seems to constantly be pulling at us and tempting us to sin. But we're not without hope. We don't have to try and be good all by ourselves. In fact, we can't. But God freely extends His grace to us. He desires to place His favor upon our lives. Salvation comes through us accepting the grace of God, by faith. No matter how many times we've messed up, how many people we've hurt or how many people have hurt us, how many failures or offenses have been committed, God is waiting for us to ask and accept His great grace and mercy. God's grace truly is amazing!!
Suppose you gave a pair of priceless Ming vases to two people. One keeps trying to pay you back for the vase. The other leaves it in their bathroom closet where it gets dusty and grimy.
The first is like someone who hears about the grace of God offered to them, and tries to earn it by being perfect. They can't really pay for something priceless, but they insist they have to.
The second is like someone who accepts God's grace, but runs around sinning repeatedly. They accepted the gift, but have no respect for it.
I thought about throwing in something about both breaking their vases, and getting new ones. If that helps, feel free to add it in.
We can all receive the gift of grace. We should respect that gift, though, and strive to live sinless lives. But if we do fail--if we break the vase--God is faithful to forgive again and again. The worst thing we could do is leave the grace in a closet, and never truly accept it.
1 lb. Hamburger
1 can vegetable soup
1 onion, chopped
1 can chili beans
Brown hamburger and onions together; drain. Add soup and chili beans. Heat together. Serve over Fritos with grated cheese on top.
This year I am trying to be more diligent in getting more exercise and becoming healthier. Granted it is only the second week of the year, but so far so good. Sometimes it can be overwhelming in knowing where to begin, what really works, what's too hard, what's enjoyable, etc. I am definitely not an expert, but here are a few things I've tried:
If you're like most people and choose to invest in a piece of exercise equipment, you are really gung-ho for a while, then you lose your enthusiasm and your purchase becomes a clothes rack or something that takes up space and is in the way. Jon and I bought an exercise bike a year or so ago. We both used it quite a bit at first. We even have it setting in our living room so we can watch TV while we exercise. But we loaned it out for a while to my brother-in-law who needed to use it. After getting it back, I think we may have used it once or twice. Occasionally I think that I'd like to have a treadmill, and the ads for the tread-climber sound amazing. But I know myself well enough to know that I would get bored with it after a few months. Purchasing exercise equipment can be expensive and take up a lot of room; but if it is something you will benefit from and use, then go for it!
What I like best is walking outside, but I don't really have a good place to walk. During warm weather I enjoy being outdoors, but there are several months out of the year where it's too cool for my liking. What I've found works best for me it to use a variety of exercise DVDs so I can trade off and not get bored by doing the same one over and over, which generally results in my quitting. I am not in the best of shape, and cannot move or bend my body in some of the ways those skinny, fit women can. These are a couple of exercise DVDs that I have found that I really like and that have moves that pretty much anyone can do:
I like the Leslie Sansone "Walk Away the Pounds" exercise DVDs. Some of hers are divided up into 1, 2 or 3 mile walks, so you can start out on the 1 mile, then up it as you get into better shape. I recently saw that she also now has a 5 mile walk. Leslie's DVDs are just basic walking, with a few other easy moves added in and are easy to follow, and not too complicated. She has a couple where you use resistant bands or balls you fill with water and use as weights, which are included with the purchase of the video. I know some of my sisters have also used these DVDs and like them, too. Jon has even occasionally exercised with me using the Walk Away the Pounds exercise DVD. I would say this would work for all fitness levels.
A new DVD I bought recently was "Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition The Workout" with trainer Chris Powell. I really like it for low impact workouts. It has three levels that you can choose from on the DVD: Level 1 is a 15 minute workout which "puts your body in motion with gentle moves to ignite your metabolism". Level 2 is a 25 minute workout that "kicks it up a notch with calorie-burning circuits that blast fat". Level 3 is a 30 minute workout that "turns your body into a fat-burning machine with quick moves that build muscle and endurance". What I like about this video is that it is real people on it who are not young, skinny, un-relatable, perky individuals who you look at and think, "I bet they've never struggled with their weight a day in their life!" There are three individuals on the DVD: one woman lost 161 pounds, another woman lost 202 pounds, and one man lost 216 pounds, plus the trainer. It has moves I can manage and I started out slow with level one until I was comfortable with it, then moved up to challenge myself. I'm currently on Level 2 and it does increase in difficulty. But one lady does modified moves you can do to make it easier until you build up your strength. I'm hoping to be on Level 3 by the end of the month.
I'm of the opinion that not every plan works for every person, so you have to find out what works for you and what you enjoy doing. The bottom line is to get moving and keep trying until you find something you can do and will stick with. We're all guilty of asking someone who has lost weight or got into shape, "What's your secret? How did you do it?" trying to find a simple solution. There is no easy solution! But some methods and plans will be easier for some to stick to, while something works for someone else. A plan one of my sisters is currently doing is "Weigh Down at Home". You can look up their website. You can listen to their video lessons online for free, but if you choose to purchase materials you can. It is a spiritual-based concept to weight loss. The basic principles are: only eat when you are hungry and your stomach signals that it is empty; and stop eating as soon as you get full. I've had friends who have participated in Weight Watchers with success. I think the key is that whatever you do, you need to have someone that you are accountable to whether it be a group or an individual who will be honest with you and not let you slide and empathize with you.
Regardless of our fitness level or size, becoming and staying healthy is something that most of us can improve on, so let's stop putting it off and make this year our year of victory and success!
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred. Proverbs 15:17
We love you!
Loretta & Jon