From Grief to Glory…

Today, there is just a heaviness in my heart.

I grieve over the divisions in our country that seem to become greater with each passing day.
I grieve over the bitter and harsh attitudes of those we have chosen to lead us.
I grieve over the callous disregard to common decency.
I grieve over the seeming unimportance of human life to so very many.
I grieve over the spiritual lostness and darkness in our nation.
I grieve over the disruptions we are all experiencing and the devastation it has caused for so many.
I grieve over the pride and arrogance that seems to permeate our culture.
I grieve over the senseless violence committed daily in our nation and around the world.
I grieve over the obsession with trivial matters and the willful ignorance of issues that truly matter.

In the midst of this grief, it would be easy to shut down – to attempt to put my head in the sand. Some days, quite honestly, I just want to weep and go back to bed for a long, long time, as if this is somehow just a bad dream.

But I, and perhaps you, are called to something more, something better, something higher. Jesus declares that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). If we are salt, then we have a mission to enhance the flavor of life and fight against the moral decay of our culture. If we are light, then we are called to shine brightly the life and message of Jesus to a world that is often dark and scary.

We are not defeated, therefore we are not discouraged. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). If God is for us, who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31) God has a plan and a purpose, but He also has the power to back it up. I’ve read the back of the book (Revelation in the Bible), so I know the end of the story. God wins! And we share in that victory!!

I also know Jesus’ promise not to leave us alone (Matthew 28:20) and send a Comforter, a Helper who would come alongside us to provide what we need for the moment (John 14:15-31). God’s Spirit dwells in His people, so how can I feel helpless and hopeless?!

So, I grieve, but it is not a grief devoid of hope. As the Apostle Paul wrote – 
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)

Instead of despair, I will hear and respond to the call of God –
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

(Psalm 60:1)

… because it was bitter

As we read through God’s Word, we sometimes come to stories that seem a bit odd, and here is one of them from Exodus 15 –

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:22-26)

Though I believe absolutely that this is a true story, I must admit it’s rather unusual. Three days after God delivered the children of Israel from the Egyptian army by allowing them to pass safely through the Red Sea, this mass of people found themselves thirsty as they traveled through the wilderness. They came to a spring in the wilderness of Shur, but the water was bitter. They couldn’t drink it. What look liked it held great promise turned out to be a huge disappointment.

They were thirsty. There was water. But the water at Marah (meaning “bitter”) was unable to quench their thirst. So they turned their complaints to the guy who (in their opinion) had gotten them into this mess. They grumbled against Moses. “This man is obviously in over his head. Sure he got us through the Red Sea, but his leadership skills are woefully lacking. He leads us to a spring, but it’s worthless! You got us into this mess, Moses. You get us out!”

They were correct to assume that Moses didn’t have an answer to their problem. God hadn’t given him a map showing the location of the nearest fresh water supply. So, he did the only thing he could do. He turned his eyes and heart heavenward and asked the Lord to intervene. It was an impossible situation, so Moses turned to the Lord who had already shown He could make the impossible possible.

The Lord directs Moses to a piece of wood. (The word could also be interpreted as”tree” or “log.”) The Lord instructs Moses to throw the piece of wood into the bitter spring. Having done so, the water became drinkable, and the people quenched their thirst and were refreshed.

There are lots of lessons we can gain from this odd story. We could learn that no problem is too hard for God. We could learn that when we have no answers, we can go to God who has all the answers. We could learn those who lead on behalf of God will often face complaints. All that is true, but in light of our current national situation, perhaps there is another lesson for us.

Moses listened to God’s instructions and acted. He may have wondered why God would ask him to do such a strange thing. Who ever heard of a piece of wood turning bitter water sweet?! But Moses did what God told him to do, and God met the need of that grumbling group. So, what might that mean for us?

We live in a time of deep bitterness. The hurt and anger and violence we see in the streets of our major cities is just a symptom of a deeper problem. This world is broken. People are broken. It began with the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden. It’s still alive in the world today. It may hide in the shadows for a while, but it reemerges with a vengeance at every opportune moment.

Moses was instructed to do something that seemed ridiculous, but it turned bitterness into sweetness. You and I, fellow believers, are called to do something that may also seem ridiculous. We are called to love everybody. We are called to serve everybody. We are called to be set apart from the ways of the world and to live a different lifestyle. We are called to be salt and light, to make a difference wherever we are. Jesus said, “They’ll know you belong to me because of how you love one another.”

In the face of the violence and hatred and division we are witnessing daily, intentionally expressing love to others may seem like such a small thing. What good is this little stick tossed into the bitter spring? But never underestimate the power of God’s calling on your life to change hearts and minds and circumstances. When we do what the Lord calls us to do, it unleashes a power beyond our imagining. And there is no power greater than letting God’s love flow through us.

Take Everything…

Sometimes you hear a song and it wrecks you on the inside. You get the sense of “Woe is me! For I am undone.” No matter how many years you may have walked with Christ or how much you’ve grown in the faith, you realize just how far you are from where you desire to be. It triggers two conflicting desires – one is to run and hide from the holiness and majesty of Jesus and the other is to run to Jesus and fall at His feet. This song both undid me and called me to come nearer, ever nearer to my great and gracious Lord.

More Like Jesus – Passion

Here at the lyrics:

[Verse 1]
You came to the world You created
Trading Your crown for a cross
You willingly died
Your innocent life paid the cost

Counting Your stature as nothing
The King of all kings came to serve
Washing my feet
Covering me with Your love


[Chorus]
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything

[Verse 2]
You are my life and my treasure
The One that I can’t live without
Here at Your feet
My desires and dreams I lay down
Here at Your feet
My desires and dreams I lay down


[Chorus]
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything…


[Bridge]
Oh Lord, change me like only You can
Here with my heart in Your hands
Father I pray make me more like Jesus
This world is dying to know who You are
You’ve shown us the way to Your heart
So Father I pray make me more like Jesus
Oh Lord, change me like only You can
Here with my heart in Your hands
Father I pray make me more like Jesus

This world is dying to know who You are
You’ve shown us the way to Your heart
So Father I pray make me more like Jesus
More like Jesus I pray
Make me more like Jesus
Oh Lord, oh Lord Father I pray,
Father I pray Make me more like Jesus


[Chorus]
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything

I hope that there is something God brings into your life today that breaks you and remakes you, that causes you to run to Jesus and fall at His feet with a broken and contrite heart. If more of You means less of me, Jesus, take everything.

Draw Near to God…

Reading from James this morning, I came across this familiar passage that is both comforting and challenging. Take a look at it.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10)

What first hit me was verse 8, where we are called to draw near to God with the assurance that He will draw near to us. No social-distancing here! Nearness to God can be the longing of our hearts – and it can be a longing fulfilled!

What hit me next was the attitude we should have when approaching God. It should ever be with a sense of entitlement or arrogance. We can only come into God’s presence because of His grace and mercy through His Son and our Savior Jesus! We are, instead, to come humbly and with a repentant heart.

To harbor unconfessed sin or to treat the hidden sin in our lives lightly is to minimize the sacrifice of Jesus for our sin. If you are a believer, your sin is forgiven in Jesus, but that does not mean it is no big deal. The Apostle Paul acknowledged that where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more. In other words, God’s grace is always greater than our sin – no matter how massive that stinking manure pile may be! But Paul goes on to say –

 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

God calls us to come near. God promises to come near to us. What a great privilege and comfort! But let us take the time to examine our lives. Do we have unconfessed sins? Do we harbor animosity toward someone? Are we infused with a critical spirit? Do we need to take the “log” out of our own eye so God can use us to minister to someone with a “speck” in theirs?

My hope for all of God’s people this day is that we will acknowledge our sin and the great cost of that sin, confess it, forsake it, and enjoy pure fellowship and intimacy with the Lord of all!



STATEWIDE DAY OF PRAYER – APRIL 27, 2020

Governor Brian Kemp has called Georgians to have a day of prayer for our state. As we take the first steps moving out of our homes and back into some kind of normalcy, we need wisdom, courage, and humility.

In an effort to encourage prayer, Grace Fellowship is providing different areas needing prayer. These will be shared on our Grace Fellowship Facebook page each hour, and we invite you to pray each of twelve hours beginning at 7:00 a.m. A complete list of prayer needs for the day is below.

One Body – Many Members…

Paul uses the human body as an illustration of what the body of Christ is like. As the body is made up of different parts with each part performing a unique function, so it is with the church. Each member of the body is uniquely gifted by God to work alongside all the other parts of the body to help it function to its fullest ability.

Even more, we are members of one another or, as the New International Version puts it, “each member belongs to all the others.” This statement can profoundly affect the way we see our place in the church. We are not just individuals who gather for worship or discipleship or service. We are interdependent. We need each other and we belong together.

God’s design is that we bring our distinctiveness and our giftedness together, and like a human body function as one under the leadership of the head, that is, Jesus. In this way we can make the greatest impact for the kingdom of God.

God did not give us all the same spiritual gifts and natural talents, and this was intentional. As Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth – 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:17-20)

Whatever your gifts are, whatever your talents, whatever skills you have developed, they make you unique and uniquely able to make a difference for the kingdom of God – BUT when combine with the uniqueness of other believers, the impact is multiplied incredibly. Let’s be the body!

By the Grace Given to Me…

The Apostle Paul was gifted man. As a Pharisee, he strove to be the best Pharisee possible in an effort to stand head and shoulders above the rest. As a Christian, he poured his talents and energies into spreading the good news of Jesus, planting churches, shaping church leaders, and encouraging believers. He was an impressive man, but he tried not to be overly impressed with himself.

One of the greatest dangers for a believer is pride. Pride puff us up. Pride trips us up. Pride will eventually take us down. So, as Paul writes to the church in Rome, he warns them not to become overly enthralled with themselves – with their spiritual gifts, natural talents, or well-honed skills. Everything they possessed was by the grace of God – EVERYTHING. The same is true for us!

He says that they were to think of themselves with “sober judgment.” As C.S. Lewis wrote in his insightful book Mere Christianity, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” We are to see ourselves as we truly are with our strengths and weakness, our successes and our failures, our good days and bad ones. We are not to become depressed over our faults or impressed with our achievements. Having a sober judgment of ourselves means making a sound judgment, a right judgment.

I wake up every day grateful. I am grateful for the gift of another day. I am grateful for the gift of my family. I am grateful for my calling to shepherd God’s people. I am grateful for the things God has accomplished through me. I am grateful for the encouragers God has place around me. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to put my feet on other continents to share the message of Jesus. I am grateful for ALL OF IT comes as a gift from God.

Paul would write to the church in Corinth, “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Let us all have the Spirit-given wisdom to say the same.

Be Transformed…

Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday in Romans 12:2. Yesterday, we focused on Paul’s warning not to be conformed to this world. Today, we look at the positive alternative to that – transformation.

The word “transformed” comes from the Greek metamorphoo. If that word looks familiar, it should. That’s were our word metamorphosis comes from, and it gives us a good image of transformation. At just the right time, the caterpillar slinks along a limb, finds a good spot, and forms a cocoon. The caterpillar stays in that cocoon approximately 21 days, then emerges as a butterfly. It is transformed, and the transformation is beautiful.

For the Christian, this kind of transformation includes our external behaviors, but it is far more than surface deep. It is a change to the very kind of person we are. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), so we know that an immediate change takes place the day a person trusts in Jesus Christ. The Bible pictures this as a darkness-to-light, death-to-life change. But there is an ongoing change that happens to us as our minds are being renewed by the Spirit of God.

In other words, we are not simply changing from the world’s to-do list to Jesus to-do list, instead we are allowing the Spirit of God to change us from the inside out. This happens, Paul says, by the renewal of your mind.

This is too important to overlook! When we were dead in our sins, our minds were dead to the things of God. In other words, the problem with our minds is not simply that we do not have enough information to make good decisions. The problem is that an unredeemed mind is corrupted. It is bent toward rebellion and away from God. Paul wrote in Romans 1:28, “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.”

Even when we have a genuine conversion to Christ, we still have these deep ruts in our thinking, ruts we often fall back into. It is intensely frustrating for a believer who wants to align his life with the will of God, but struggles with old habits. We long to be free of the shackles of sinful behaviors and the guilt and shame that accompany them.

If transformation comes from the renewal of our minds, how, then, are our minds renewed? Renewal of our minds is not something obtained by force of will. Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). We must be utterly dependent upon God’s power and not our own. Many great accomplishments have been done by humankind by the sheer force of will, but not the renewal of the mind!

If this renewal is a God thing, then an ever-growing intimacy with God is our answer. The nearer we draw to the heart and mind of God, the more we will be able to discern and discover His will, and the more willing we will be to pursue that will with all our hearts. This is why the disciplines of daily prayer and Bible reading are so very important. This is why a connection with a body of believers who can challenge you and hold you accountable is so important. This is why listening to Christ-honoring music and reading the works of godly men and women are so important. Our transformation is supercharged by the renewal of our minds as our thinking begins to line up with the heart and will of God Himself.

Do Not Be Conformed…

Fads and trends come and go. Some people seem to be immune to them, while others chase them with great passion. The fad may involve a particular style or brand of clothing, a trendy new vehicle that everyone wants to drive, or the latest phone or techie gadget. None of us are immune to hopping on the bandwagon and joining the parade of what is currently popular.

It’s amusing to watch how hairstyles have changed through the years. Here’s a link to an animated video showing changing hairstyles. For the most part, asking your stylist to help you look a little more like the guy or girl you just saw in a movie isn’t the worst thing in the world… just don’t expect him or her to perform miracles!

The challenge for us is not so much wanting to drive a Lincoln because Matthew McConaughey makes it look cool or lining up to get a Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich because everyone else is doing it. The challenge is not so much that we wear a certain pair of jeans, imitate the makeup of a popstar, or include the latest slang term in our vocabulary. The challenge is that we don’t allow ourselves to be ruled by what the world around us says is important. As a child of God, we must be careful that our value system is shaped by the heart and will of God, not by the fluctuating values of the world.

Have you ever made cookies using a cookie cutter. The object, of course, is to make cookies that are all pretty much alike. If you are making star-shaped cookies, you press the star-shaped cookie cutter into the dough, and you can end up with a batch of cookies that can be virtually indistinguishable from one another. That is a great picture of being conformed. It’s an outward pressure to shape your attitude and lifestyle.

We’ll consider the rest of this verse tomorrow, but let these words from God remind you to be cautious about going with the crowd. When we anchor our beliefs, attitudes, and action in the teachings of Jesus, we can have great confidence that we are following in His footsteps. When we tune in our ears to what the world claims is true and right, we will find it to be ever-changing and unstable. What is true today maybe be false tomorrow or, worse yet, the very concept of truth itself becomes vague or irrelevant.

Who or what is pressuring you to fit into a certain way of thinking or behaving? Is is consistent with the call of God and the Word of God? Be aware… and be wary!

A Living Sacrifice…

Picking up where we left off yesterday, Paul has made his appeal to the Roman church (and to us) based on the mercies of God. I would add here that he uses “mercies” rather than “mercy” because the mercy God shows is multi-faceted and ever-flowing. And based on the mercies God has shown to us, Paul lays out our reasonable response…

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” When Paul uses the term “bodies,” it would seem that he is not just talking about our physical bodies but would include the totality of who we are. It is, however, with our physical bodies that we interact with the world around us. Our understanding of God mercies and our salvation experience because of His mercy saves our souls, but it also influences our actions and interactions in the physical realm.

There was also a belief taught by philosophers and embraced by many that body and spirit were totally separate. Indulging in sinful behaviors with your body, they believed, would have no affect on your spirit whatsoever. Paul’s words argue against such a dichotomy. We are not simply to present our souls to God but every part of ourselves. When we bring our bodies to Him, we are, as the Hokey Pokey song would say, putting our wholeself in. The trick is not to then take our wholeself out!

So what is a “living sacrifice“? Remember that animal sacrifice was common, but in each case the animal was killed. That was the sacrifice. The idea of a living sacrifice would have struck the readers as very strange. The answer, however, may be far simpler than it appears.

The words of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel shed some like on the idea of a living sacrifice. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Just as a sacrifice was a one-time event, so too was a crucifixion! Yet Jesus calls us to take up our cross DAILY. We are daily dying to ourselves so as to live for Christ – or better yet, to allow Christ to live in and through us!

Paul then adds two terms that describe the living sacrifice – “holy” and “acceptable to God.” The standards God placed upon acceptable offerings were high. A Jew was to carefully consider what He would bring to the Lord as an offering. It was not random or haphazard in any way. He was to bring the first fruits, the best of his flock or herd. He was not to bring blind or lame animals, that which would be less costly to dispose of.

When we come to the Lord as living sacrifices, we are not to bring our least or the leftovers of our lives. We are to give to God the very best of ourselves. This is not simply in regard to money we might place in an offering basket. Paul is talking about giving our very selves!

And he adds – “which is your spiritual worship.” We offer our BODIES as SPIRITUAL worship. There is no divide here. We don’t separate our spirit and our physical form. True worship, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, is in spirit and in truth. When we offer our spiritual worship, it is giving ourselves to God inside and out and without reservation or holding back. And it is the only reasonable and logical thing to do based on the mercy He has shown to us.

In times of prosperity and times of lack, in times of triumph and in life’s defeats, in our best times and our worst times, God covers us with His mercy and calls us to live in such a way to bring glory to Him and bring people to Jesus.