Thursday, July 6, 2017

“The Secret to Wholeness Can Be Found in the Jar”

After reading this Passage of scripture, as usual I had to do some research on this passage so of course I had to look up the meaning of “jars of clay.” One of the definitions said that the jars of clay would have brought to mind a common household jar—probably inexpensive and fairly easy to break. It would probably have cracks and chips from being well used. Look to your neighbor and tell them my jar has cracks in it. Turn to your other neighbor and tell them, “Girl, mine too! There is so much to get from this verse, but the idea that struck me was once that jar of clay is broken, it allows the inside to be seen and the contents to flow outward. Just as light can shine through or water can spill out of the cracks of a broken pot, God will show through our brokenness….through our cracks! God intends to bless the world by “hiding” the gospel in “jars of clay” that don’t seem very impressive by worldly standards. Paul uses the phrase “jars of clay” in reference to Genesis 2:7 which says “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” We are all earthen vessels (made of clay).

Of course, there are all kinds and grades of clay. Some of us are rather fine china -- we crack easily – yet we still have a very fine texture, though, it is nothing more than clay. Others of us are more like sun-dried mud, and we crumble at the first site of a storm that comes our way! But at any rate the matter is gathered up in this one phrase -- earthen vessels. We are all made of common clay and that is why we all face the same problems. Regardless of how the clay jar looks on the outside, the most important thing to remember about the jar of clay is that it be cleaned, emptied, and made available for service. We are the jars of clay that God wants to use and that He will use. We are earthen vessels so that we might depend on God’s power and not our own. We must focus on the treasure inside the jar and not on the ‘jar’ itself!

Many years ago long before his fall from Fame to Shame, Bill Cosby did a routine about little old ladies standing around looking cool. He says that if you mess with one of these harmless-looking, gray-haired little old ladies, don’t imagine that you can take them on and win. Mr. Cosby goes on to say, you ought to never mess with a little old lady standing around looking cool. They may look small and sweet and weak. But just when you least expect it, that little old lady standing around looking cool will say something to stop you in your tracks and cut you down to size! Mr. Cosby went on to say that even grumpy old Goliaths have been reduced to tears by little old ladies standing around looking cool. In fact, says Mr. Cosby, that’s how you get to be a little old lady, by standing around looking cool!

Standing around looking cool is relevant to what Paul has gone through in his life meaning that if you can keep yourself together no matter what is going on around you; if you can remember the priceless treasure that’s in your clay jar, you can make it! You can be strong! You can prevail!

Why doesn’t God put His valuables in the most valuable looking containers you ask?  God wants the world to see what He can do through weak jars of clay so that others will come to believe in Him. That’s why he puts the treasure of the gospel in these fragile “jars of clay”. You may think they you are not valuable enough for God to be able to use because you think you may have too many ‘cracks’ or too many chips in your jar in other words…too many past or present problems and failures. Listen, the true value is NOT us ourselves but the value or treasure is Him who is in us.  The weaker we are, the more He can do through us! God’s formula for getting Himself out of us and into the world is often using the difficult moments of life. You know….those strong storms that come in our lives and seemingly never leave!
Honestly, I don’t think we as Christians have any more difficulties than non-Christians but probably even more! As Christians we suffer through sickness, as Christians we experience financial difficulties from time to time, we as Christians struggle at work with that crazy boss, we struggle with challenging family matters, with those children who think that the world owes them something! My point is this…..even through all of our struggles; God will use our life challenges as evidence to the world of His presence in our lives.
What is the most inexpensive container you have ever put something of value in? Was it money in a sock, or under the mattress or in a cigar box? God chose to place the very presence of His Holy Spirit in fragile and weak human vessels. Too many of us get so distracted by who we are rather than Who He is in us! Then we try to do things by our own power rather than allowing the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us to work on our behalf.  Shame on us if we value ourselves highly and get caught up in our titles and prestige, and full of pride thinking we are all that when the truth is we are none of that! The Word of the Lord says…I will break down your stubborn pride. Leviticus 26:19.  
Why do you think so many of our Bible heroes had such serious flaws. Because that’s all God had to work with! And today, we are still all He has to work with! Let me give you some samples of some defective clay pots before us…….
Abraham was guilty of dishonesty and yet he became the man of faith and the friend of God.
Moses, another clay pot, whom studdered in speech and had a quick temper, yet he was the man chosen to make a nation and to commune with God, to receive the Law.
David, another clay pot, was guilty of adultery and murder but he repented and became a man after God's own heart.
Elijah ran from Jezebel and sat under a juniper tree, angry at God, but he had just stood on Mount Carmel and defied Ahab and all the prophets of Baal and now he sinks to this low level. But even Elijah heard the still small voice of God at Horeb and was used mightily.
Isaiah; who in the presence of God admitted that he was a man with unclean lips and yet it was he that God called and used mightily.
Peter the leader and the spokesman of the Twelve, Peter who failed so many times and finally when everything was really on the line denied his Lord with cursing and oaths and was later restored by the compassion of Jesus to the most effective and powerful ministry to that point, 3,000 people repenting at his one sermon on the day of Pentecost.
John the Apostle; who expected to be praised by Jesus for refusing to allow a man not of their company to cast out demons, John who with James wanted to call down fire from heaven and burn up a whole Samaritan village, John who along with his brother and his mother came and asked Jesus to put them on the right and the left hand in the Kingdom...a very blatant act of pride... It was John who became the beloved disciple, the Apostle of love, the eagle who soared to great heights and of all the Apostles perhaps the one who pierced most deeply into the mystery of Christ as the Son of God.
All defective jars of clay! Remember that All the perfect people are already in heaven. But until our time of transition to Glory, God will continue to use who He has! And that would be us who are quite often stubborn, and pig-headed, BUT, He will do some marvelous things through us! Amen! When God chooses to use us, who are damaged, defective and weak, God alone gets the glory when WE, those same messed up folk who are ‘toe up from the flo up”, have been wounded by the world and have been broken by trial after trial to accomplish the impossible by His power! Somebody shout hallelujah!
Listen to this….People fill themselves with false treasures so then when the clay jar gets broken it reveals the FALSE treasures that WE have stored inside of us! The tainted contents inside the clay jar are then exposed and we realize what WE have stored inside our ‘jar’ like anger, resentment, confusion, fear, sadness, loneliness and it is ALL useless! But God!  What God has stored inside all of us (these fragile and unworthy jars of clay) is EVERYTHING we will ever need to make us WHOLE! If you profess to be God’s daughter, then you HAVE THIS PRECIOUS TREASURE STORED INSIDE OF YOU and IT ’S POWER IS THE SECRET THAT IS ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF ALL THAT AILS YOU!

You see, the presence of God who resides in us is far more valuable than we are! We are valuable because of WHO lives in us!   God’s power is different from the kind of power the world thinks of. God’s power does not CRUSH or DE-VALUE His people as the world does. God’s power instead unites people, God’s power tears down walls, God’s power restores marriages, God’s power rebuilds families, heal broken hearts, forgive the deepest sins, impart hope in what looks like a hopeless situation! Not only that, God can give you light in spite of the cracks and chips in your jar! Light to bring you out of darkness! Now that’s good news for somebody!

Principles to release the secret in the clay jar during trials and tribulations:

1.    Instead of running for cover during the storms, we must learn to dance in the rain. (When storms come, we must understand that God has His hand on us and that we will not be moved. He never promised us a perfect life. Jesus told us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted 2 Timothy 3:12. Learn to refer to your stored treasure in your earthly clay pot! Even though it’s raining trials and tribulations in your life right now, just start dancing just like David! Get undignified with it! Just dance before the Lord like you have lost your mind!
2.    Having enough faith in the treasure (God’s Spirit) stored in your clay pot to face life’s challenges head on without fear. (You have been a witness to God’s power to see you through the storms before. Trust and believe that He will do it again. Now is not the time to stick your head in the sand hoping that the situation will diminish by itself! Be bold knowing that the Holy Spirit is with us guiding us, leading us! Be that “tree planted by the water in Jeremiah 17:8 It says” They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.””…Remember…God did not give us the “spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind!”2 Timothy 1:7)
3.    Stop focusing on how the situation looks and fixate your eyes on the unseen. (Don’t you dare stop praising and worshipping God during your storms! Put your faith to work! I know things look really bad right now! I know that it seems impossible to overcome the situation right now! But listen, I stopped by today to tell you that our God is a God who can do the impossible! Remember as Paul was suffering with the infliction of a thorn in his side. God said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…. 12:9". Just trust and believe.) Paul said his troubles affected his body. In the end, they would cause death. But as his body got weaker, his *spiritual life got stronger. He could see with his eyes the weakness of his body. But he knew that his *spiritual life was growing. His troubles would help him to reach an *eternal *glory. That would be much greater than his troubles could ever be. The troubles showed that nothing in this world would last. He turned his attention to the *unseen things that would last for all time. He prepared for them. Go ahead and get your praise on anyhow even though you cannot see a way around, nor a way over and not even a way through because you are too focused on the situation. Take your focus off the situation and put your focus on God!
4.    Understand that during the storm, know to expect a few scrapes and bruises. (Many of us are going through difficult times and struggling with major issues like our health, our finances, family matters, addictions or abusive relationships. But the good news is that there is hope so do not lose heart.  It will not be easy getting through the devastating life storms, but I can assure you that God will not waste your pain and suffering. He allows things to happen to test your faith. The way we respond to the storms in our life determines if we will stand or fall.  When God brings you out of something, He wants you to give Him the Glory, Honor and Praise so that the world can witness His power and might that brought you out and not you!! Not only that, God wants you to share your testimony and how God brought you through so that others may come to know Him! Will you curse Him or will you trust?).  
Christ died for our sins upon the cross. As we believe in Him and follow His teachings, He can help us deal with our brokenness in order for us to be made whole again. In fact, in order for us to be restored to wholeness, we must realize that we have to be healed by a power greater than ourselves. Thus, we must remember the treasure that is inside of our jar!  Tell your neighbor “the secret is inside my clay jar”. Tell your other neighbor “Yea, mine too!”
So many people have received this false ideology that once you surrender your life to the Lord everything is smooth sailing from there on out, and you are given a prestigious membership in a red carpet club through life, so that mysterious bridges will appear over valleys, the winds are tempered for you, and there are no pressures, no difficulties, no problems.

Let’s go back to the text. Let me remind you again what Paul said. He said…”We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 RSV) A very descriptive account of all that he had faced in His life and all that we can expect in our lives as Christians. All the problems and all the pressures that Paul describes are all still here. This is life in the raw. Let’s take a closer look at Paul’s points.
Afflictions: These are the normal life pressures which everybody faces, Christian and non-Christian alike. Times when we feel like the life is literally being squeezed out of us. The analogy of this kind of pressure can be compared to that of an olive being squeezed with an olive press. Have you ever felt like that in your life? The pressures of life may squeeze us but the Power of God stored in our “jar” we are not crushed; we are not in despair, nor have we been forsaken or abandoned and God’s power will not allow us to be destroyed or knocked out.  Our afflictions DID NOT KILL US! That’s a reason to shout right there! God is far more interested in our character than our comfort! Let me say that again, God is far more interested in our character than our comfort! Our relationship with God and our character are the ONLY 2 things we will take with take with us into eternity! The Good News is this: We can see help in God, and we have carte blanche access to God! It’s all in our jar of clay!
Perplexities: Referring to all the pressing calls for decisions, when we don't know what to decide. We are at a loss, at our wits end, we can't see the end, and we are not comfortable not knowing how everything will turn out. Being afflicted with fears, anxieties, worries, and uncertainties, are all grouped into one word as Paul says "perplexities." Romans 12:12  says….”Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Even in our greatest perplexities, knowing that God is able to support us, and to deliver us!
Persecutions: These are the misunderstandings we all run up against, the ostracisms, the cold shoulders that we get from others at times, the malicious actions and attitudes, deliberate slights “throwing shade”, attacks to our character, our reputation, being pursued by hatred and violence everywhere, we are sometimes forsaken by those who calls us a “friend” as well as being persecuted by our enemies! But God…will NEVER leave us nor forsake us! Deut. 31:6 says…” Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Somebody needed to be reminded of God’s promise today!
And lastly Paul speaks of being………….
Struck Down: You know, those life blows which came at us from the middle of NOWHERE -- accidents, fatal illnesses, job losses, earthquake, riot, devastating storms, and just plain insanity -- these unexpected episodes can shatter a family or an individual, and can leave us with fear and uncertainty. All these things are part of normal Christian experience. There is no change in the problems, just the pressures. There is no suffering, no affliction, which God will allow to ultimately defeat and destroy us!  It’s not that we won’t fall from time to time, but when we do, God will raise us up again! Isaiah 41:10….” Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Paul’s reaction to the 4 points are encouraging to us as he says "Afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed." There is this magnificent power stored within our ‘jar’, different than anything else that we have experienced, which keeps pushing back with equal pressure against whatever comes from without, so that we are not destroyed, not crushed or despairing. That is the way Christian life is intended to be. We are called to this kind of victorious experience.
The point that Paul is making here, is this: we are able to meet the pressures with an answering inner pressure (through our stored treasure), not only in the big things but in the little things as well. We are preserved by the One who created us! We are kept by the One who lives in us! Whatever our condition may be currently or whatever our condition was in the past, we ought to be shouting, thanking God and grateful for the “BUT GOD” experience in our lives! God works through the Scriptures to teach us the attitude we should have, and the circumstances in our lives which allows us to experience it, so that the light hidden within the clay jar, the treasure hidden within the clay jar, can break out, and men and women may see it, and be blessed and strengthened. This is how we are assured that the secret is in our jar…that resurrection power stored in our jars is a testament that ALL POWER is from the Lord!
But for the Believers, Paul says, there is no ultimate destruction. The reality of all of this is that we live in a fallen and sinful world. It is a world that breeds affliction, perplexity, persecution, and catastrophe. We cannot escape the universal suffering in this world. No matter how closely we may walk with the Lord we can experience any of these difficulties. But out of that, God wants to demonstrate a different reaction and a different attitude than a nonbeliever going through the same experience.
In the midst of the difficulties there is an inner peace within us that surpasses all understanding, a feeling of confidence in knowing there is HOPE! In us there is endurance, patience, joy, thankfulness, and an attitude of gratitude. When there is every reason in the world to be impatient, but God gives us endurance. That is what God wants to do for us. It can't be explained in terms of our own natural resources…. physically, emotionally, nor relationally. The only explanation can be that, God is at work. It's got to be evident that the power belongs to God and not to us. The apostle Paul accepted his difficulties in life and the fact that he was weak showed that He was fragile, and an ordinary clay pot. Paul learned through a lifetime (and it does take a lifetime, we don't learn this overnight) that what really filled him up was what really mattered, "the surpassing greatness of the power of God."
In closing Paul says “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. Paul emphasized that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
It is not the burdens of life that weigh us down; it is how we handle them. Remember God is always at work in your life - even when you do not recognize it or understand it. We get so caught up in worries, stress and daily struggles and we begin to lose hope and our faith begins to waver because we are looking for alternative sources for help us rather than seeking the powerful treasure stored in these old cracked, chipped, fragile jars of clay! Remember the Lord is in the storm with you! Keep your eyes on Him during the storm instead of the situation! Don’t grow weary! Don’t give in! Don’t give out! You can make it! Let the gospel shine through the cracks and crevasses of your brokenness!  We have the Comforter with us, our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit, the Good Shepherd, Our Savior that lives within us, we have more than a promise, we have the deposit for our eternal destiny through Jesus Christ our Lord. How do I know He lives because, He lives in me! The treasure inside our vessel gives us the victory because of what Jesus did for us!
At the end of the day, wholeness is what we want. We want to be whole in body, soul, and spirit, but we cannot be made whole on our own. The secret to wholeness is our stored treasure in our jars, the resurrection of Christ that lives within us and has been there all along.  Will you relinquish complete control to Him today?

Our Father, we need periodic reminders of what we are in ourselves -- empty pots made to contain God, made to hold the Almighty, we are useless and meaningless and empty without him. Lord, we pray that we may learn to accept the experiences which come our way with gladness, with cheerfulness and understanding  so that we will look to you Oh Lord to rely upon your grace. And even more, that we may learn to accept these snubs to our ego, these humiliating experiences which crush us, but which also produce the life of Jesus within us. Help us to do this in honesty and genuineness today. We ask in Christ's name, Amen.

Monday, August 31, 2015

God's Grace is a Way of Life

God's Grace is a Way of Life
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10)

We all talk about God's Grace but how many of us truly understand just what we are really saying and truly understand what that means? How many of us know all there is to know about grace? How many of us take the little things for granted? How many of us believe that we are where we are in life based upon how hard we've worked to get to where we are? If you believe that, then we really need to talk!

We need to understand that it was not our doing, but only God's Grace! By God's Grace, we are able to be here today. Grace has the ability to change us, reshape us, strengthen us, encourage us, soften us and the list goes on. In all of our stuff, God is gracious and merciful by not giving us what we truly deserve. His grace is nothing other than Unmerited favor. We did absolutely nothing to receive his grace nor could we ever do anything in order to receive God’s grace.

So, what is grace? Grace is a free gift. It is a free gift from God! Just because He loves us!

We cannot work for it. We cannot negotiate it. We cannot earn it. We do not deserve it. We cannot manufacture it for ourselves. It can only come from our God of grace and He gives it to us completely free.

Do you all remember being taught about grace using an acrostic? Grace is: God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense.  That’s cute and catchy but to really comprehend what grace is, we have to understand who God really is. In Hebrew the word for God is EL which simply means one with strength, with might, with power, is great and is strong.  Some names of God we as Christians sometimes use ; Elohim, our creator who is mighty and strong, El Shaddai our God Almighty or El Elyon, our Most High God.

Because of what happened in the Garden of Eve, sin entered our being and we were separated from God.
This was never in His plan for us to be separated from Him at any time. The only way to cover our sins permanently would be for Him to offer His Son, Christ Jesus as a living sacrifice. We were reconnected to God by the bloodshed of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The cost of our redemption was indeed very costly! Our redemption is the greatest portion of grace given to us by our Loving Father! God’s Grace! Hallelujah!

The extent of God’s grace is endless and it’s probably not even humanly possible to understand just how big and how deep and how wide His grace truly is! It is not because we have been good but only because He is good! 
God pours out grace on each of us every day! We are like little spoiled children because we think it is always of our own doing.

The daily grace we receive comes in many types, many forms. In other words, we receive our daily portion of grace based upon how God sees our needs at that time. God tailors His grace to meet our needs. Praise God for His Grace!

God loves all of us dearly, whether all of us acknowledge Him or not and He therefore provides grace to all of us. This form of grace is known as Common Grace. We can find an example of Common Grace in Matthew 4:44-45 says “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Common grace takes the form of things we take for granted such as the earth and what we get from it such like precious stones and various metals. Like natural gas and oil. Even the makeup of our bodies, like our immune system to fight off germs, our skin which is self-repairing! (God designed us this way!)  What about our senses, we can smell the roses, we can feel the touch of a new born baby, our spouse or significant other? Things that we don’t even think about! God’s Common Grace, is provided to
allow us to partake in His creations for our enjoyment and for our benefit!  Common Grace! Don’t take it lightly!

Ephesians 2: 8 says: “For it by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In order words, our ransom was paid in full on Calvary in order for us to receive the gift of salvation!  Jesus went to the cross on our behalf, we were able to take off our old selves and become new again in Christ all because of His saving grace! Because
Hallelujah! Saving grace!  This is something to shout about!  God saved us, simply because He loves us and He forgave us!  But wait! There’s more! Not only can we thank God for His saving grace, because immediately after we were saved, His grace started to work on us to purify us and sanctify us! God’s sanctifying grace which is His Holy Spirit that lives inside of us is always putting us in check, pointing out our sins, prompting us to confess our wrongdoings and repent. It is up to us to be obedient in order for the work of sanctification and purification to continue working in us! Just remember, Ephesians 1:6 tells us “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Let us never sell ourselves short by walking in disobedient because it delays the purification process that God has started. Praise His Holy Name for His Sanctifying grace!

Has anyone ever experienced that grace, having your needs met right unexpectedly, at the time you are at the end of your rope? Not knowing if you should tie a knot and hang on of just let go?

How many of you saw Tyler Perry's movie, "Good Deeds"?  Tyler Perry played the part of a very successful business man who was about to get married but found himself drawn to the night housekeeper of the building he worked in. The housekeeper was a single mother, working, struggling to provide for her daughter which became impossible. She and her daughter lost their home and lived in her car. She lost her babysitter for not having the money to pay. Children services caught wind of this and the mother was forced to be separated from her child.
Having witnessed the child being taken away, Tyler Perry becomes very concerned for the well-being of the mother and the child. He asks her to allow him to help her and she was filled with pride like so many of us however, she wanted to be reunited with her daughter, so she agreed to allow him help her. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine, someone would provide a place of her own to live so that she could regain custody of her daughter. She wondered why this man was so generous and kind to her, something she had never experienced before. James 1:17 tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  When we at the point of giving up, God steps in and tells us the same thing, “Let me help you. He tells us “I am  Jehovah Jireh, your provider. I can and will supply all of your needs.”  God already knows what we are in need.
God is a God of provisional grace!

God knew of her needs and had pre-arranged how she would receive the help she needed through a chosen vessel to work on His behalf. What an experience to be the beneficiary of God’s provisional grace!  Say Provisional Grace!

Provisional grace and Miraculous grace are very closely related. We see and witness God performing miracles every day. When there is absolutely no explanation for something occurring or not occurring can only be the miraculous power of God!

I met a young woman on Sunday whom experienced God’s working power, His Miraculous grace very recently.
I will not say what the situation was, because that is her testimony to share but it was one of those “Wow! Look at God!” moments! Jehovah Ropha!  God our Healer!

Praise God for miraculous grace interceding on our behalf!
It cannot be explained! It cannot be denied! It is only God’s grace!

Grace is a way of life! Many of us feel that our sufferings seem to be endless when actually our sufferings are only momentarily when we weigh them against what we will experience in the realm of glorious eternity. Listen, if God is going to use us, you can best believe that we are going to suffer. Don’t take it personal. The good news is God will sustain us while we are going through the fire! Sustaining grace! Yes, we will go through trials and suffer much pain,
but our Bible tells us in Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need!”

When we look back over our life and everything that we have ever been through or still in, do you know why you are still standing? Do you know how you still have sanity?
You are still standing in spite of you losing that job and now wondering what will happen to you and your family;  in spite of your worrying about that wayward child causing you sleepless nights because you see them going down the path of destruction;  in spite of the what the doctors are telling you that you have cancer and it is in the last phase;  in spite of it being only the 5th of the month, money is gone and there’s still 25 more days left in the month! In spite of all that; God continuously pours out His sustaining grace on every one of us! Remember what
our Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, The grace of God, who has called you to is eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you!” Praise God for His sustaining grace! Every one of us should be running around this church right now praising Him for His Sustaining Grace. During those times of trials and suffering, we can have comfort in knowing from God’s Word, 2 Corinthians 12: 9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  This is why we have not fainted during our sufferings. This is my testimony! You may now see my glory but you don’t know my story! Praise God for His sustaining grace!

Grace is a way of life! Say Grace is a way of life!

There’s more about God’s grace! The magnitude of God’s grace is immeasurable!  Ephesians 1: 13 -14 says “When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Want to know what I just said?  I just said our God has secured us from sin! Our salvation has been locked and secured by His Securing Grace! We have been saved by the blood of the lamb, we have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit and we have been justified by His grace! It is good to know that we can have relief in knowing our salvation is Secured by His mercy and His grace!  Grace is a way of Life!

So far we know that we all share common grace just because God is a Loving Father who loves all of us. We know that we have been saved by His grace, sanctified by His grace, our immediate needs are met by His provisional grace. God is a miracle worker and extends miraculous grace making a way out of no way. We have comfort in knowing that by God’s sustaining grace, we are still standing when it felt like we were carrying the weight of the world on us and we could have lost our mind, and we can be assured that our salvation has been secured by God’s beloved son, Christ Jesus. But there is still more!  We all have been given spiritual gifts by our loving Father.
Those gifts were not given to us just to have, but for the sake of serving others. 1 Peter 4:10-11 tells us that “each of us should use whatever gift we have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

It goes on to say “if we speak, we should do so as one who speaks the words of God and if we serve, we should serve with the strength God provides, so that God will be praised through Jesus Christ.”  In other words, don’t kick a sister while she is down! As stewards of God, we have been given the gift of Serving grace and we are to use it blessing others, paying it forward for the purpose of glorifying God, not ourselves.

God’s grace is freely given and we have 2 options of how to live our lives. We can choose to accept anything and everything that happens to us as being our ‘destiny’ or we can choose knowing and understanding God’s grace, God’s divine assistance, unmerited favor and why we need it in our lives. His grace has been given to keep us from sinning. Yet, when we do sin, we can ask for forgiveness and God grants us tender mercies! Although, don’t think because God provides grace to us, that it is a greenlight to sin! Don’t get it twisted!

God’s grace is a way of life! 

·       By his saving grace, we have been saved from the wages of sin which is death.

·       By his common grace, we live in the midst of all that He has created for us to enjoy!

·       By His grace, we have been sanctified!

·       By His grace, we have received His Holy Spirit that lives within us which justifies us!

·       we least expect it.

·       By His miraculous grace, He still performs miracles everyday. Miracles which cannot be explained.

·       By His grace, we have been sustained. We have been kept. 

·       By His grace, we have not lost our minds as we continually go through storm after storm in our

·       His sustaining grace provided strength to us to keep us from fainting.

·       God’s grace has given us security in salvation. We have been sealed with a promise by the Holy Spirit.

·       God’s grace has been given to us in the form of spiritual gifts that we are to use for the benefit of others for the growth of the body of Christ.

Grace is a way of life! It is a wonderful free gift from our Father! Therefore we should extend grace to others in the way of love and kindness! 

Again, we will never fully understand the full magnitude of God’s grace but one thing I do know for certain. God’s grace is working in us every day! The best thing we can do is to submit to the influence of His grace!

Grace is a way of life and I received revelation of this years ago when God spoke to me clearly revealing ‘a better way of life.’ What I realize now that I did not realize at that time was how freely His grace was flowing in my life knowing that I did not deserve His grace. But because he loved me then and He still loves me now, I can say I am still standing because of His grace and who He is!

If you feel you have come to a crossroad, not knowing whether to go right or go left. Go right because it leads to God and His grace. If there is something holding you back, and keeping you from fully yielding to Him, trust God to reveal those things so that you may recognize His grace is with you and Has been with you all along.

God’s grace is a way of life!  As I close, I want to leave you all with this verse, 2 Corinthians 9:8 which says “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

May God’s grace continually be with you all! God bless you!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Preserved Life: A Daughter's Expression of Love

My mom went home to be with the Lord on February 6, 2014. This was a very difficult time for me as this was my last parent. I then felt like an orphan. There were those who reminded me that I still have a Father who loves me very much. Abba, Daddy God.  It was with God's prompting that I was able to give my personal eulogy and expression of my love to my Mom.

Homegoing Service - February 14, 2014
Annie Pearl Williams, My beloved Mother

After taking time and reflecting back on the time that mom was with us, and talking with my pastor back home, I began to seek guidance and understanding about everything that she went through in this life, the physical life. I was led to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-23.....and it reads "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Then I began to think about why God kept her here suffering for so long. She lived a long full and beautiful life; she taught her children everything that she knew. Let me clarify, when I say children that meant every child in her life.  God has shown great favor over her lifetime. She lived through the loss of 2 sons, she lived through my period of crazy teenage years as well as my era of my 20's, she lived through life with 2 sons in military, she lived through my dad's battle with Alzheimer disease, determined that she would continue to care for him, although her own health was failing as well and finally she lived through her beloved, my dad's transition to Glory. Yet I still wondered why God allowed her to endure so much pain?

God then dropped in my spirit as I was reading and meditating on these scriptures, "A Preserved Life". I said "hmm, I think I get it. My mom's life has been preserved by God. Preserved. God revealed this phrase to me on January 25, 2014, exactly 12 days prior to mom's transition to Glory. The number 12 is a relevant number throughout the Bible and is demonstrated quite frequently such as 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples of Jesus, 12 gates of New Jerusalem.  The number 12 is used symbolically to reflect divine authority and that God is always in control. When God wants to demonstrate His control, He stamps the number 12 all over it so that we understand, it is of His perfection.

According to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, preserved means to keep safe from harm, or destruction, to keep in good condition, to protect, to keep alive, make lasting, etc. You all get the jest of what I am saying.

My mother was 87 years young. In her lifetime, she encouraged, she taught, she comforted, she witnessed, she disciplined, and with a firm hand I might add. Amen? She fed many, she claimed many as her own and she loved her family and those she claimed as her own.

Although our house was a welcoming environment indeed, you knew never to test her! Our mom didn't play! If anybody at our house, whether a resident or not, niece or nephew, or one of her "chosen kids", and I call them chosen because she loved and cared enough to share wisdom with them and disciplined them just as if they were her own, therefore EVERYBODY would get DEALT with and make no mistake about would be  by ANY MEANS NECESSARY!  In fact, she didn’t have to even know you! You all know what I mean!

Now my mom was not one to spoil the child and spare the rod "oh how she NEVER spared the rod! Although she was quite a disciplinarian, she did it quite lovingly. In fact she loved us enough to tell us in every lick sometimes adding extra syllables to words extending the time and agony of our whooping.  My generation did not know the meaning of "time out, spankings or to have our electronics taken away". We instead got "whooping’s" and most times we had to get outside to fetch our own "switch" and that walk felt as if you were headed to the execution chamber. Heaven forbid if you bring back something close to normal, it was far too small for her liking! Mama would then go get the whole tree branch! And if we made her really, really mad, she would make us "wait for the whooping" and sometimes that could be days or weeks! That was more agonizing than the whooping itself! But then when she was ready, OMG! She would go back months from stuff we thought we were cool on saying, "oh you thought I forgot,  didn't you! You remember that time.... and then that other time.... and the list grew longer and so did our whooping.

My mom was a very beautiful and, an amazing, courageous Woman of God. She stood firm on every promise of God. She knew God was with her during the highs and the lows. She was truly an optimist with a free spirit, a colorful spirit, recognizing God is in control. Just to reflect on her colorful spirit, not only was this an incredible internal quality, but also reflected externally. She loved colorful flowers, colorful scarves, jewelry, hats and clothing. In fact, she loved color so much, that she shared her love for color with me at a young age. Looking back at my elementary school pictures, I was later in therapy a little while for the outfits that I wore and back then. One particular outfit I remember that was handpicked by my mom was a red and green plaid dress with hues of yellow accented by a red white and blue striped vest with white stars. I was convinced at that time that my outfit was the bomb. After I became an adult and revisited memories of my childhood, these pictures brought tears to my eyes, literally tears to my eyes because the colors and patterns were making me crossed eyed.

But seriously, it really is such a wonderful blessing to remember moments like this, moments of your mother's loving support as she sat through your school play as you walked out with your torn paper costume, or moments that she sat watching you collect school awards beaming with pride, remembering moments of mom bringing cake, or cookies, or juice to your classroom for a school party. These moments are priceless because my mother had that gift of making you feel special and beautiful in her own way.

My mom was an incredible pillar of strength and focused on the positive side of every situation or circumstance,  even when she felt powerless from the many trials and tribulation. She was not a well-educated woman, yet she was wise far beyond this lifetime and spoke with much wisdom to all who crossed her path. She was not a woman of great etiquette, yet she was a woman with high self-esteem, honorable character, self-respect and the Light of the Lord, which was reflected through her walk with Christ.  She was not a woman to get involved in meaningless things outside of her home, thus teaching us to be respectful of ourselves and to others, to be humble, to be a blessing to others rather than a burden, and to remember the great golden rule, "To do unto to others as you would have us to do unto you". Therefore her work has not been in vain because she followed God's instructions according to Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart it."

I hope you understand that God granted my mother continuous mercy, grace and favor. God predestined her life to endure hardships, persecution and long suffering to be evidence of His Might and Power for His Glory. God preserved her to complete His preplanned Work of speaking wisdom into those coming behind her and because she was preserved, when the adversary tried to block God's work, she remembered "She could look to the hills for help knowing her help came from the Lord." (Philippian’s 4:13)

God preserved her life to demonstrate true meaning of being a woman of God.  My mom understood that life was not all roses and sunshine every day and there would be many life storms and some wilderness days, therefore as a wife and mother she knew she had to stay on bended knee and pray her way through. She remembered that God said "I am your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

God preserved her life to teach and train up more soldiers to boldly proclaim the Gospel therefore building His Kingdom, knowing there would be times when she would have to depend solely on faith because there would sometimes be nobody to stand with her. She remembered Paul's instructions to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3-4) "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved with civilian affairs (or this life) he wants to please his 'commanding officer' (or He who has chosen him to be a soldier).

God preserved her life to assure her family understood perseverance because there would be times when we too would become frustrated, impatient, discouraged and weary from the tiresome journey of life struggles. However, my mom remembered that God's Word says (Isaiah 40: 31) "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint".

And finally God preserved her life because she worshipped him, because she served Him faithfully, because she lived on God's  every promise, and because she was not ashamed to speak the Gospel. My mom witnessed to many headed down the path of destruction, telling them about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to trust in Him and to surrender their life to Him. She often spoke of the "Last Days", reminding us of what the word says (2 Timothy 3:1-5) "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them". My mom understood there would be many that would not want to listen, yet that did not stop her from proclaiming the Word of the Lord.

In closing, God finally called His servant, our mother, home to be with Him in Glory. She suffers no longer and her living was not in vain. Let us rejoice and not mourn. As Paul wrote to Timothy, 2 Timothy 4: 7-8: I believe my mother would agree with Paul and say to us, " I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing".

Let us be encouraged today reflecting on the promises of God as our mom has done. God bless you all.

From Rough Stones to Refined Jewels

What is a GEM? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a gem is defined as a “jewel”; a precious or sometimes semi-precious or valuable stone that has been cut and polished for ornament; or “something prized especially for great beauty or perfection” or a highly prized or well-beloved person. In doing my research on the mining process for precious gemstones, particularly diamonds, I found it to be quite interesting. A diamond is the hardest natural substance known to man. The word diamond is a derivative of the Greek word, “adamas” which means unconquerable or invincible. Diamonds are buried at least 100 miles underground. Therefore, in order to excavate the diamonds from the earth, miners must blast the area where they perceive diamonds to be. Once the blasting process is over, it is then that the diamonds can be seen pulled from the miry clay. To the untrained eye, the diamond in its natural state does not look like diamonds as we see them in stores. In their natural state, they are covered with mud, sand, gravel and other impurities. Once diamonds have been discovered and extracted from the earth, they must go through a rigorous process before revealing their pure natural brilliance, sparkle. Until that process is completed, it is essentially a “diamond in the rough.” There are 4 C’s that determines the value of a diamond; cut, clarity, carat and color. The steps involved in revealing the brilliance of a diamond include, washing, cutting and polishing. The diamond has to be washed before it moves along. Remember, it came from within the earth, therefore it must be washed and cleansed of the mud, sand, gravel and all other impurities. The cutting process is lengthy and requires a lot of effort to cut the different facets of the diamond so that its shine and sparkle can be revealed. This process requires the skills of an expert, a Master Cutter, so not to cut this precious gem inaccurately. If the diamond happens to be tapped in the wrong spot, it will shatter. The pieces are still diamonds but no longer have value as gems. The Master Cutter knows how much grinding a diamond needs in order to get the most brilliance from it. The next step is the polishing phase is very long and very tedious. It is through this process that the sharp edges and its surface are smoothed down in order to get to its true value, its brilliant sparkle and its real beauty. By now, I’m sure you are wondering why I am focusing on the process that a diamond goes through. There is so much more involved in this process that we could go on all day! However, I want to stop here and focus on the similarities of a precious jewel and those of God’s jewel. As one of God’s jewels, we as Christians go through a rigorous process very much like a diamond. As any diamond in the rough that takes a lot of time and work and love, we have been specifically selected, because—God has made us of "gem-quality material." “If you think the person you are right now, will get you to become a diamond, you are mistaken!” The transformation of being refined into the precious gems as God sees us, takes much work. It will not happen overnight. In fact it will take the most of our lifetime. Let me just say this, “you are going to go through some stuff . Why, is that, you ask? Because the Word of God tells us so! In (II Timothy 3:12) Paul writes to Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It will be painful, agonizing at times, will seem hopeless at times, helpless at times. Sometimes there will be extreme pressure and extreme heat and it will be a very slow and painful process. We wonder how we should find joy when we are experiencing turmoil in our lives. We just have to remember that God loves us so much and He sees us as precious jewels! “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scouregeth every son whom he receiveth,”(Heb12:6.) “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11). Just like diamonds, there are 4 C’s to a spiritual diamond: Conviction, Commitment, Courage and Character. All are equally important as they build upon each other. Conviction. The degree to which one knows and believes the Word of God. Being sure of what you believe! There is no room for doubt. We must believe! Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” You all remember back in the book of Genesis Ch 39 the story of Joseph and the Potiphar’s wife? Joseph was fine and she wanted him ya’ll! But Joseph understood the real meaning of conviction and knew what was right from wrong. And what she was asking him to do was evil and wrong. The good thing is when we are being tempted, there is always a way out. Joseph was like, “Deuces” as he immediately left her! Commitment. The degree to which one consistently acts on that knowledge and belief. It’s making a firm decision way in advance of the circumstances you will be faced with. If you truly believe what God’s word says, then when trouble comes, you are committed to holding fast to God’s unchangeable hand. In other words, you are binding yourself to a certain course of action based upon the truth of your conviction! Hallelujah! Did you all hear what I just said? Let me say that one more time. Your commitment means you are bound to a certain course of action based upon the truth of your conviction! We have to take a stand. Stand firm! If we are not solid with our conviction (faith) then we are open to be compromised in our commitment meaning we can go left and right because we are not sure! Conviction and Commitment go hand in hand! Courage. The degree to which one is able to persevere in the time of trouble. To have the courage to withstand the storms of life, we must be solid in our conviction, and committed to standing on the Word of God. When we are facing those raging storms of life, it will take all of our strength and boldness to stand by our commitment. But we are so worried about losing our status in society, losing our wordly titles, and even worried about losing our jobs so we compromise our commitment making us weak. Character. The degree to which one is conformed to the image of God’s perfect Son, Jesus Christ. God is building character in all of us as He refines us into precious jewels! If you look at these qualities as levels of a pyramid, we would see conviction as the base (our foundation)! Followed by commitment and courage. At the very top is our character! It is our character that will take us into eternity! This is why God calls us His jewels therefore Malachi 3:17 says “They shall be Mine, says the Lord of Hosts, On the day that I make them my jewels…” When we are suffering and going through the fire of trials and tribulations, God is grinding us during those times. God is working on our character. The beauty of enduring during those troubling times is God’s Grace! God is our Master Gemologist. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5: 3-4. In order for God to remove all impurities in us, He has to put us in the middle of the fire—so to speak—where the flames are hottest. Peter talks of our loving God who has begotten us again "to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you... In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter:1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,, 6-7). Remember, God is making His precious treasure, and that is what it takes to be refined! God will not leave us in the fire to long. Paul writes: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians:10:13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.). He doesn't rejoice in our sufferings. He would rather avoid them. But He knows that they are necessary. We as daughters of the King should have one common goal and that goal is to become a spiritual diamond. We MUST have Unshakeable conviction, Unwavering commitment, Unflinching courage, and Christlike character. GEMS are God’s DIVINE CREATION "A precious jewel is the production of God and only God. Diamonds can withstand extreme heat, extreme pressure and are the hardest known substance to man. A better way to see the value God sees in each of us, just as we see a diamond that has just been pulled from the miry clay, every person is truly a diamond, being the toughest substance in existence. Regardless of our behavior and outward appearance, God can see our soul underneath all the rubble and it remains intact. Just like a diamond, we therefore are Unconquerable as the word diamond is Greek word, Adamas meaning invincible and unconquerable. GEMS are Beautiful To His disciples the Lord Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14), and why are they so? Because He could say "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16): "so shine" that Christ gets all the glory; "so shine" that we make it clear and plain to all that whatever goodness or righteousness there is in us, and whatever fruits are produced by us, all is from Christ as the Root. VARIETY of God’s Gems Precious stones vary considerably both in color and in size, kind and value, brilliance and worth. If order is Heaven's first law, variety is certainly its second, for there is no uniformity in the ways and works of God, though there is a blessed underlying unity. So gems, all are valuable, but all are not the same. There is the clear diamond, the red ruby, the green emerald, the blue sapphire, the violet amethyst and so, on. So it is among the saints. All are God's children, all bear the marks of the Divine "workmanship" (Eph. 2:10), all are equally precious to Christ, but all are not alike. HISTORY of God’s GEMS Precious jewels come from humble beginnings as they are discovered in the mud and mire of earth. Diamonds have been buried in the earth under rocks, sand, and mud, etc. for centuries "Look unto the rock whence you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence you are dug" (Isaiah 51:1). O the lowly origin of the Christian: "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock" (Psalm 40:2). God’s DESTINY for GEMS "You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God" (Isaiah 62:3). Wondrous is it to think of rough stones, which first look like small pebbles, being found in the mud and mire of earth; then cut and polished until they scintillate with a brilliancy surpassing any earthly object, and being given an honored place in the diadem of a monarch. But infinitely more wonderful is it that poor lost sinners, saved by sovereign grace, should be among the crown-jewels of the Son of God. But He will yet "present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Then shall He say to the Father, "The glory which You gave Me I have given them" (John 17:22). "And they shall be Mine, says the Lord Almighty, in that day when I make up My jewels" (Mal. 3:17). What is meant by "When I make up My jewels"? Is it not when the complete number of His redeemed are regenerated and polished? Is it not when He shall descend from Heaven with a shout, resurrect the sleeping saints and transform the living ones and rapture them together, so that we shall "ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17): "make up" (Mal. 3:17), "caught up" (1 Thess. 4:17)! God is working in each of us to create in us a unique gem. And for God—the Master Gemologist—to smooth the rough edges and polish us and cut the different facets of His character, it is vital that we feel like gems in His expert hands. Are you willing to allow God to work on you? Are you strong enough to endure the pain and suffering and count it all joy? Are you willing to allow the Word of God to convict you? Are you willing to be committed to a GEMS lifestyle? If you are, please stand with me and take rock in your hand and look at yourself. Do you like what you see? Can you see the diamond underneath all of your stuff? Can you see the image of Christ as you look as this hard shell? Is that you? What are you willing to do about it? Will you surrender yourself today? God bless you all!