Unworthy and Loved

March 8th, 2012

In John 4 we read of a certain woman at a well, a Samaritan and a sinner, who is ready and willing to receive a word of grace.  Jesus recognizes her as someone who will engage with Him, who longs to be in relationship with God.  He breaks through a bunch of boundaries and tells her there is a gift she can ask for…there is life she can receive.  She can worship God, not in the way prescribed by the tradi­tional scriptural authorities, but in a new way…in spirit and in truth.  He tells her that He is the Messiah in whom she has hoped.  So, although she’s outside the circle of accept­ability, and incredible as it may seem to her, God has directly come to her and asked for her faith, for her response.  He has walked right up to her and called her.  She believes and accepts His mission, then she responds by going way outside of her comfort zone to tell others, to go to the very people that shun her and tell them that she has met the Messiah.

I really relate to this woman.  I’m an unworthy sinner; Jesus has recognized my need to find and love Him; He has asked for my faith.  Jesus has crossed all boundaries and come to me, where I am, and offered me life.  He has told me that to worship God is about following His Spirit and worshipping in my heart, in my everyday, in my thoughts and actions and words and relationships.  I want to respond and tell others and follow Him.

I have found a like-minded community here at Grace.  This family of believers cares about a living faith, about worshipping and living in relationship with God, about being open to His Spirit and responding to His call.  I love Grace because I have found healing here, acceptance, deep joy and compan­ionship in hard times.  As I live in community here, I feel God’s profound presence.  I think and hope that Grace is about crossing boundaries, reaching out, calling to faith­fulness those who want to know God’s love.

Karen Cornish


Child of God

March 5th, 2012

1 John 3:1 

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

This is both an encour­agement and a reminder. God’s love is ever present, unfailing and I am His child. I am encouraged daily by that. I am reminded that because God loves me, I am called to love others in thought, word and deed. God gave me gifts that are “tools” for making choices and decisions each and every day. Read and ponder the Bible, live by His commandments, confess my sins and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. I am truly blessed to be a child of God!

Chryss Hartman

 


Music for the Soul

March 3rd, 2012

As a child, my faith grew in the old family church that I usually attended alone except at Easter.  My wonderful father responsibly dropped me off and picked me up for choirs, confir­mation, youth activities, Sunday School, and services where I sang or played my flute, always there alone or with peers.  After college, I returned to the old church quite sparsely but knew, after a near fatal accident, I wanted the strength I received from worshiping and learning God’s word with a Christian community.  I needed a church family.

When Emilia and Philip were toddlers, I knew I must be again actively involved so my children could also feel God’s active presence in their lives in fellowship with friends.  After “trying” many churches for a fit, I joined Grace with our children and my husband’s blessing.  My faith grew, and my need to recharge with life’s demands led us into the hands of a loving, supportive church family.  Both Adolfo and I together continue to grow in our faith through the support of our Grace pastors, our Grace friends, and the worship experience with regular attendance.  The music of all four services touches my soul, but I especially am moved by the contem­porary worship music.  Through my flute playing, I hope to help others feel God’s presence at that moment and in their lives.  There is a prayer on my piano that reflects my current musical faith experience at Grace:

“God, please bless my music that it might glorify your name,
May using it to serve you always be my aim.  Let it be a witness to your majesty and love, 
And remind us that you’re watching from your throne above. 
Oh Lord, I ask for guidance in everything I do, and pray you’ll make my music an instrument for you.”

Debbie Alejo


Living Faith

March 1st, 2012

James 2:14–17

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is faith? In the same way, faith by itself is dead, if it is not accom­panied by action.

I suspect that most Christians struggle from time-to-time about the status of their faith. I happen to be one of them, but I also feel that my faith has become stronger because of James 2. I first came by this Bible passage in an unusual way. It happened to be at a time in my life when I was asking myself many questions about my faith and not getting many answers. I was reading the QC Times newspaper one morning while eating breakfast and like every morning I passed over Bill Wundram’s column (I never cared for his column and therefore, never read it). However, my peripheral vision spotted a statement in his column in very bold print. It read: James 2: Faith without action is dead.

I didn’t quite understand its meaning, but I was compelled to look into it. I think that James 2 was telling me that faith alone, if it is not manifesting itself by action (deeds), is idle or useless and shows no sign of life. Faith will do no one any good if it is not exercised. We must work out our faith to be fruitful and useful.

I concluded that God’s desire for me is to have a life that has a purpose. A life that challenges me to accomplish something for his kingdom and not just take up space. My discovering James 2 was another mysterious way that God provides answers to difficult questions that can’t be found in any book. I’m convinced that James 2 jump-started my faith journey.

Bud Johnson

 


Simon Peter

February 5th, 2012

My bible story is Peter’s story, or rather a collection of stories throughout the New Testament. Peter’s quest to develop a relationship with his Lord is full of bumbles and stumbles. In his journey with Jesus, he almost tries too hard, which in turn exposes his mistakes even more vividly. From his limited and selfish thinking (Matthew 16:21–23), his unintel­ligible blabbering on the mountaintop (Mark 9:5–6) and his peaks and valleys in his own faith (Matthew 14:28–31), to a failed testimony stating he would stand with Jesus no matter what (Luke 22:33), Peter constantly fell short despite his over-eagerness to follow Jesus.

My story is Peter’s story. I am too eager to grow as a Christian into a steady and secure relationship with Jesus. But the closer I move to my goal, the more obvious my failings become. I can see and understand more clearly than ever my past and present sins. The more I engage in my quest, the more my sins stick out. I cannot go very long before I catch myself in a selfish thought, a careless word, a neglected deed or a faltering faith. I am much like Peter. But just as Peter’s story paints a floun­dering picture, it also brings with it a story of redemption. Jesus saw Peter as he was, and called him on it when he predicted his denial (John 13:38). Never­theless, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the church to open the door to all who would believe. God never abandoned Peter, but loved him and gave him the grace to grow and serve his Lord. And in this, I find my hope.

Sally Meier


Bearing Fruit

February 3rd, 2012

I am the vine. John 15:5

If we imagine the world as part of God’s enormous garden, the idea of people being part of the fruit makes more sense.

God is our vine and we are nourished and supported through His care. At times weeds grow around us but God’s people help remove the bad and replenish what is good.

In the process, our lives produce some delicious crops and we share our bounty in the world. We use our gifts and talents to our best abilities and understand how we are loved by God.

Though diffi­culties come into our daily lives and storms overcome our pristine spirit, we are sometimes forced into silence and reflection in order to have a closer walk with God. It is as though God prunes away those parts of us not needed anymore. We might even feel vulnerable and naked in the garden, but God provides us with the real neces­sities we should have.

When our leaves are clipped and the ground around us is upturned, new life can begin again as the water and nutrients are absorbed in our roots.

The “vine” text was given to me as my confir­mation blessing years ago, but it is firmly planted in my heart. We are God’s family members and He loves how we grow. Each one of us is a unique planting an our fruits are as varied as the sand at the seashore.

If we look to the horizon during the season of fall, the array of colors from the dying leaves fills us with awe. The trees are breath­taking in the hews of yellow, orange, red and brown. But soon those leaves fall to the ground, are covered with the winter’s snow and are buried in the earth providing nourishment for future generations.

In the spring tiny buds appear and we wonder how did these seeds survive the freezing temper­atures of winter. Yet as the days get longer and the sun warms the soil, the pastel colors of Easter flowers brighten the landscape and lifts our souls out of the doldrums of winter.

The seasons are part of God’s plans and we are part of His harvest. Let’s be sure we do what we can to nourish those around us, express our thank­fulness through action, support one another when things are rough and display our fruits and gifts from God.

Linda Smith Kortemeyer


The Gift

January 30th, 2012

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. (Psalm 24:1)

Sometimes, we need to step away from our busy lives and recognize the gifts that God has provided to us.

Bob & Kathy Shriver