The Secret Ingredient – Praise

As presented to Crossroads Community Church 3/11/12:

I believe that Jesus Christ has provided us Grace, and that term really means GRACE TO LIVE or EVERYDAY GRACE, not just grace for salvation.

  • This is the kind of grace that teaches you how to live, guiding you into paths of righteousness, free from the influence of the law
    • Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
  • This is grace that causes you to grow in your relationship with the Lord, and in your knowledge of who He is
    • 2 Peter 1:2 – Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • This is also the grace that motivates our service and our stewardship. It doesn’t drive; it leads. This grace permeates us and causes us to drop the hammer of judgment, and throw wide the doors of acceptance, laying a garment of “manifold grace” over the shoulders of the world
    • 1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of Gods grace in its various forms.

Yet I also know there’s more to my walk with the Lord than just…….sitting in Grace.  Just sucking up that grace for my own benefit, even more than serving others in simple ways here and there.  In Matthew 5, Jesus calls us “salt”.  Salt has healing properties and we all know it adds some good flavor to many of the foods we eat.  Jesus explained in Matt 5:15 – But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

This verse should not be used to imply we can be cast out of heaven, for John 6:37 Jesus tell us All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  But I DO believe Jesus is clear that if we as believers have no “flavoring” we are not much use to the world.  And if you think about it, the saltier something we eat is, the more thirsty we get……and then I realize the following:

Our excitement, even when life is falling around us for one thing or another, should make people around us want to have what we’ve got.  In other words, they should get thirsty for what we have. That’s true for other believers around us as well as those who don’t know the Lord.  We should act and live in a way that others around us want to be near us.    However, I have been pretty hard to be around lately, and that pushes people away.  Or sometimes we Christians think we need to act “holy” or “pious” as a sign that we are doing something right, but Jesus basically says, If you arent making a sinner thirsty once in a while, what good are you?

Then there is the whole seed parable that Jesus taught us in Luke 8:11b-15:

The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by lifes worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

I want to share that we have the greatest gift inside of us that the world could ever want – again, not just for salvation (which is a huge deal), but also for our entire lives. This gift should permeate every aspect of our lives and cause the thirt, bless those around us, make others want what we have in a good and loving way…….and just rock.

So I’ve set up the premise as follows:

  • Grace is real and powerful us every day, not just at the point of salvation.
  • As followers of Christ, we have assurance in His saving grace forever
  • We are called to be the salt to others
  • And by being that salt, I want to cause those around me to have thirst for the truth I have in Christ!
  • The knowledge of the Grace of Christ is a great gift.
  • The Word of God is a seed and just because we believe, doesn’t mean we are persevering to produce a good crop.

Here’s the deal – for months and months, if not years, I have gotten these truths and hidden in my heart and felt good about it.  I have shared these truths with others, even in this very church, and felt good about it.  Yet, I didn’t allow the truths I had learned to change me, to affect my life or really those around me.  Sure, they did in SOME ways, but more superficially than I would have liked.  The roots, often, are very shallow for me.  And that got me to thinking – I could easily be put into the category of “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” or “I am choked by lifes worries, and do not mature.

Self-reflection at this point can be very painful, even overwhelming.  I can say for my part that it became quite easy to put every aspect of my life and motivations under the microscope and find ways to be disgusted with my life and walk with Christ.  I am going to be candid and share that all this accomplished for me was to build layer upon layer of guilt, disgust, anger, self loathing…….you get the idea.  Then I would beat myself up for not remembering the truth of who I am in Christ, which just added another layer of guilt to the quagmire.

Hear me – I DON’T WANT TO BE GOOD FOR NOTHING!  But sometimes self reflection just doesn’t propel you to be good!  Sometimes it perpetuates the same type of junk, if not worse.

So for a few weeks I’ve been in this weird place of trying to figure out how to move from beating myself up, but also away from KNOWING all these cool things and not offering any flavor to others or maturing in the knowledge that Christ has given me.

My revelation may surprise you, maybe not.  But we are going to walk through this together today, collectively.

It really started a few days ago.  I was still befuddled with this purgatory of sorts I had created for myself – almost feeling like I was swimming in quicksand – when I got a text from Stephanie on 2/29:

Good morning sis and g!!! Interview went good yesterday and the lady sent my resume to the company so I will hear back either today or tomorrow.  Plus we have a guy coming over tonight to check out the room for rent for a 6 month lease…God is amazing!!!!!!

 Then a few days later she sent:

Good morning sis and g……praise report……Michael went to a repair shop in Sachse and instead of a quote of $389 to fix my TV it is $159……God is good and He provides!!!!!!!

Now the piece I am missing about these two is that Stephanie did NOT get the job she interviewed for.  Yet, you can see from her text that she doesn’t say “I am so bummed, I didn’t get the job, things are just not going my way.”  Instead, she is continually viewing, absorbing, and accepting the blessings that surround her!  Not only that, but she gives the credit where the credit is due – to our God!!!!!

1 Chronicles 16:8 says, Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;  make known among the nations what he has done.

Psalm 30:11-12 says: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.   LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

With two little texts, I realized that when we focus on our failure, other people’s failures, it’s easy to lose sight of God.  OR start thinking that’s how God views US.  However, when we take the time to see and acknowledge all the blessings around us – big and small (Pastor Tim’s hose) – it’s easy to see the Truth of who Jesus is in our lives as well as our part in it.  And before you can stop and think, you become that salt Jesus was talking about!

I mean, wouldn’t you agree that the texts I received from Stephanie caused me to get thirty?  She was the salt!

It reminds me that I need to stop focusing on the devil of Matthew chapter 4 who tempts Christ by saying “If you are the Son of God, and instead start focusing on Jesus who in Matthew chapter 3 clearly understood and heard This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  I am reminded that I am crucified with Christ, I am loved mightily by God, and His blessings are abundant and I AM THE CHILD OF GOD, so if and when the devil tempts me, I know I can fight back!

So I am going to do something very different this morning – I am going to take the time to share specific things God has done in my life that have blessed me, for I am so thankful for Him!  As you hear these stories, focus on the positive.  Think about blessings in your life as well. 

1984 – I was a new Christian, about 17 years old, and I was on fire for Christ.  The only problem was my church was constantly preaching that the end was near.  I was torn, because I really didn’t want Jesus to come and take me home – I wanted to graduate from high school, get married……have kids.  And then I felt guilty for wanting those things.  One night I cried in the dark, praying for the Lord to ease my desire for these things when suddenly a small, tiny light appeared on the ceiling.  I stopped crying, rubbed my eyes, and thought to myself, “I am seeing things.”  But the light continued to grow in size as well as brightness, until I suddenly felt something enclose me.  Something filled with joy and peace beyond any words I can utilize.  Very quickly I began to praise the Lord and get SO EXCITED that He was really, really coming and all other concerns or desires faded away to nothing.  And then it stopped, as if it never happened.  As I looked around the completely dark room, which moments before was bathed in light, I heard a small voice say “Don’t worry, you’ll be ready when I come.”  Thank you Jesus for loving me so much that you met me where I was and blessed me with your love, assuring me of your place in my life.

….My God hears the cry of my heart.

Late 80’s – I was driving on a notorious section of an Orange County, CA freeway – it’s narrow and usually heavily congested.  I was in the carpool lane and this specific section often included people who were sitting in the fast lane jumping into the carpool lane – can you imagine a car popping out when you’re going over 50 MPH?  It was crazy.  On this particular day, I was driving my 1977 Chevy Caprice Classic (aka cop car) going about 50 and sure enough, despite my caution, a car pulled out in front of me and BAM!  I hit them.  Yet, I was amazed when the car took off!  I followed for a long time, honked my horn, but also was amazed that there didn’t appear to be any damage on their Honda Accord bumper.  Finally, I exited, pulled off the freeway, and checked out my own car.  THERE WAS NOT A SCRATCH ON THE CAR!!!!  I was NOT alone – both of us in the car felt the jolt of hitting the car, both were jerked.  All I can say is that the Lord protected me that day and my guardian angel was a bit thinner.

….My God is my Protector.

1994 – My Dad, who was a tough Harley rider back then, was at work at was not feeling well – even his co-workers noticed he didn’t look that great.  He actually conceded to allow his boss to call the paramedics, which was VERY unusually for my “tough guy Dad”.  And yet, they found nothing wrong with my Dad once they checked him over.  Still, as the day progressed, he didn’t feel better and – for the second time, miraculously admitted he needed help and asked to be taken to the hospital.  When there he was brought immediately into ER (a miracle in itself in Southern California) and just as they started putting on the EKG pads to see what was happening, my Dad went into full cardiac arrest.  It was so bad that the doctors didn’t even take the time to put the gel on the defibrillator and ended up burning my Dad’s chest.  However, my Dad was brought back and it still alive today – some would contend that he’s healthier now than then! 

….My God has perfect timing.

2008 – through circumstances that are best described as a snowball scene of homophobia and fear, I was outed at the Christian organization I had worked at for 6 years.  Deciding I would not hide my lifestyle any longer, but clearly take the stance that my personal love life had no bearing on my professional position, I was put through a tough time.  Ultimately, a very lucrative position was in line as I watched my boss (who supported me) and others lose their jobs for no other reason than admitting they knew I was a lesbian.  I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown when I got a real and palpable sense that I would not be hurt in the situation, though I didn’t know what that meant.  Without getting into all the details, I did leave my job, but not before getting a year’s salary!

2010 – After being unemployed for 18 months, and at the very end of her unemployment insurance, Deana was facing a fearful situation (as was I) – how would we make it?  She had been applying for job and job and had also gotten to Texas teaching credential, but nothing was biting.  Then, through networking with Todd, Deana interviewed with the City of Dallas and received a job almost to the day her unemployment, she had a job which she holds to this day.

….My God is My Provider

My house is a miracle, my five kids are miracles, we have more friends here in Texas in two years (thanks in large part to this congregation) than we ever had in California.  We are blessed left and right.

I would encourage you, especially if it feels like you can’t do anything right OR life is falling around you……look for the blessings in your life.  You WILL find at least one!  And when you do, share it with someone!