Sunday, September 16, 2012

How Amazing Is That Grace & Why Are Others Missing It?

Church was special today.  With our daughter and her husband away, we were able to take all three of our grandchildren who live with us to our church -- a rare treat as their family attends another church regularly.  But with taking care of children for the weekend so mom and dad can get away comes some privileges.

Not only did the message stir my wife and I -- it was all about the role and message of the prophets in Scripture and how their hurts and experiences helped them share the message as well as better understand God; and of course, we have similar opportunities -- but the worship carried out through singing was most meaningful for me today.

One of the songs was the favorite "Amazing Grace" but for some reason, with all that is going on in the world today, its words struck me a little differently this morning.  Tears actually flowed down my cheek as the large congregation belted out the words of the well known arrangement.  No, I had not just gone through a difficult experience.  No, I was not in a weakened state of mind.  And besides, if that is what it would take for me to be in tune with what I sing on Sunday mornings, then that's okay too.  But I wasn't.  Whatever stirred me, was not coming from me.

If it was something 'technical' that stirred me, it was the fact that we were led in the singing of all the currently existing verses of the hymn, rather than just the well-known ones.  If you search for the lyrics of 'Amazing Grace' on the Internet, you won't easily get them all.  You'll have to dig a little harder to do so.  But I believe I was moved by more than that too, because my heightened sensitivity to the words was constant during our whole rendition of it.

Every statement in the song, based on my own limited knowledge of Scripture, is indeed a 'word' or a promise given to us in God's love-letter to mankind, the Bible.  The songwriter just had this incredible way of putting the words together.

I listened to the words of verse one, trying to sing along with the others.  There is no doubt that I considered my past wretchedness.  I knew I had been lost.  I knew I had been blind.  And I rejoiced in the fact that now I was saved, found, and able to see.

Undoubtedly, I appreciated that the fears of my heart for myself and my loved ones were indeed relieved.

As I quickly, almost involuntarily, reviewed my life to this point, I had glimpses of the dangers I had been through and those that I imposed on others; I remembered my struggles and I recounted the snares of the enemy that God had kept me from by closing certain doors that I perceived as opportunities.  And I realized that it was indeed His Grace that made it all possible.  That's why I'm still alive after six and a half decades of breathing -- 'safe thus far' as the third verse says.  And will arrive safely 'home' when my time on earth is over.

But here's the truly amazing "and there's more where that came from" part.  God has indeed promised His children 'good' and a 'secure hope'.  (We have been hearing about 'hope' for the last four years or so and especially these days as we approach another season of decision-making in America.  But those promising that hope just do not seem to be able to deliver it.)   The hope God promises is secured by His Word.  And He will both protect us and provide for us as long as we live.

The fifth verse drew to my attention to the fact that I cannot fight mortality.  My life will one day end.  Yet, as a child of His, I will be ushered out from this life, passed through that curtain called death which separates the present from eternity, and walk into an everlasting life of joy and peace.

The most moving and challenging of the verses, however, for me was the sixth one in light of my current preoccupation with the rise of Islam in the world, the potential nuclear armament of Iran, and the potential Israeli strike against her.  Coupling those possibilities with what many of us believe to be signs of Christ's return and indeed the end times, makes this verse so meaningful today.  The world as we know it, will soon be gone, the sun will not shine any longer, and only God will remain and He does love me.

The hymn ends with the familial idea that no matter how long we'll all be in eternity singing praises to our God, we won't have put the slightest of dents into or touched the timeline set aside for such worship.

That's "how amazing this grace" of His is.  But as I sang this morning, I could not help but face the question that my mind was being bombarded with, "Why are so many others missing this grace?"  Why were so many others not even aware of His grace?  I had no solid answer as long as the question was phrased in that manner; as long as the question tried to explain why so "many others" were missing what I had.  I couldn't answer that any more than the little boy of the famous "throwing a washed ashore sand-dollar back into the ocean as he walked with his dad" story could have saved all the sand-dollars he came across.  But he knew he could save each of the ones he picked up and threw back in.

By rephrasing the question to "Why is my neighbor, my colleague, my friend, my relative missing this amazing grace?" I was able to get a perspective of what I could do to help one, two, three, four, or more of those that were the "so many others" in my earlier question.  These at least could learn about Jesus Christ.  They could have opportunity to share in this AMAZING GRACE.

How amazing is the grace you've received from God?  Share Him.

(Below are all the verses of this hymn that I could find.  Enjoy.  Reflect.)

Amazing Grace Hymn

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The world shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun refuse to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.


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