Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I was thinking about salvation, how it is by grace alone that we are saved. When I joined the choir at the church I started attending after I was born again, the choir director had a questionnaire for us to fill out, and one of the questions was “What is your favorite scripture?” At that point I had been saved for more than six months, but much less than a year, and had only started going to church and reading the Bible the friend who had invited me to the church had given me, but I knew the answer right away. Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” I thought that maybe that favorite would change over the years, that as I learned more and grew more with God that I would have different scriptures that would become favorites, but although there are many that are precious to me because of the way God has used them to speak to me at particular times in my life, and although I share many different passages with people depending on their need and what God is speaking to me and asking me to speak to them at any given moment and for many different needs, my favorite scripture has never changed. It is my foundation, the thing I go back to again and again and again, at every point - the highs, the lows, the challenges, the trials, the temptations, the places of weakness and doubt, and the places of strength and victory. It is in that scripture that I find the fullness of God’s grace and mercy and love and power. It is faith that saves us, only faith, not the things we do or the things we say or even the things other people say about us – it is what is inside of us, deep in our hearts, that thing that no matter what still cries out to God like the father in Mark 9:24 and says, “I do believe, help me with my unbelief!” And it is God who gives us that faith. Ephesians 2:9 goes on to explain that it is, “not by works so that no one can boast.” At the time that I was born again, I was not living any kind of life that had anything to do with God. I was living the exact opposite of a life that would be pleasing to Him, and yet He still reached down and grabbed hold of my hand and poured rivers of living water into a life gone dry in the desert. He breathed new life into me, gave me a new heart and a new mind, and a new spirit filled with His own Holy one. It was a gift, and not because of anything of myself, it was simply a gift given for no earthly reason at all.

As I hear the news from Boston about a 19 year young man lying in a hospital bed in critical condition, I think about that grace that was given to me so freely, and I have no choice but to pray for him too. I read the charges brought against him, and if he is indeed guilty as all the evidence seems to prove, to have committed so heinous a crime a person cannot know the value and worth of others, and this often means they do not know their own value either. To have committed such a crime, there is something that has gone terribly wrong in that young man’s life, and whether or not we ever hear the truth of what happened, we may never really know or understand the deeper reasons of why. God tells us always that we are not to judge, but to pray, that knowing our own faults and failings and that we have been given grace, we are to pour that grace back to others as freely as it has been given to us. I did not ask for God’s grace in my life, He gave it as a gift, and my prayer for others is always that they would receive His gift and know the same blessing that I have received.
Ephesians 2:9-10 continues so beautifully, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Another translation describes us as God’s workmanship and the good works as things that He planned for us to walk in. He knows everything in advance. Before things happen, He knows about them, and He has already planned an outcome that may be very different from what we see at the time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, and He knows the end from the beginning. He knows everything about each and every one of us, our thoughts and our hearts and our deepest hidden secrets. And yet, in spite of ourselves, in spite of the things we hide even from ourselves, He has made great plans for us to walk in. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He says this not to a group of people who are walking in His ways, but to people who had gone astray and had been walking far away from Him, so far that they were now in captivity in Babylon. He tells them this so that they know that in spite of everything, His plans and promises will still stand. There is nothing that we can do that can take us so far away from God that He can't bring us back again.

As I think about my life and how He walked into it with love at a time when I had done nothing to deserve it, Ephesians 2:8 reminds me that it is not anything that I have done or not done that matters. It is what God has planned that will continue to stand even as my own strength sometimes wavers. There’s a beautiful song He showed me one early morning last summer when I was having trouble standing on His promises. The title is "You Raise Me Up," and it goes like this, “When I am down and oh my soul so weary, when trouble comes and my heart burdened be, then I will stay and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit a while with me. You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains. You raise me up to walk on stormy seas. I am strong when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be.” He gives us faith as a gift, to raise us up from where we have been brought down to, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes by a life of pain and suffering and grief. Whatever it is that we have done or that has been done to us will not change His plans for us, and we will walk in them with His grace.

Jannie Susan

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