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Amazing Grace and a Walmart Gift Card

Last weekend, our Children’s Ministry, as part of a retreat, went to the local Walmart and handed out Walmart gift cards to shoppers. I was moved and inspired by the following message posted on our church Facebook page from one of the recipients of a gift card. This person makes an incredible analogy between a Walmart gift card and the Gospel of Jesus.

“I was in the toy department at Walmart today when a young girl approached me and asked if I wanted a gift card from her church. At first, I kind of stared at her making sure I understood her correctly. I accepted the card she so kindly handed me and thanked her. As I looked around, I could see that there was a group of children (and adults) going up to different people and trying to politely hand out these cards of blessings. I heard one lady on the next aisle say, ‘No thank you, I don’t need it. Give it to someone who needs it, wants it, deserves it.’ I thought all the way home, isn’t that the way it is with the Gospel of Jesus? Here Jesus is, a free gift to us all, a wonderful life-saving gift and so many times we say no thank you, I don’t need Him, I don’t deserve Him, or I don’t want Him. That hit me hard. Thank you East 91stStreet Christian Church youth for going out and showing kindness and witnessing about Jesus. May you all continue to grow in your faith and courage.”

Unfortunately, this thinking is especially true in our world today—Christianity is for other people. The religious kind. Those who have their act together. Those who are more spiritual. Not for me. Johnnie Moore once wrote, “This prevailing sense of spiritual inadequacy is epidemic within Christian culture. It’s one of the greatest barriers standing between our faith and those who are curious about it” (Dirty God, 46).

What we learn in the Gospels is that Jesus is for all of us, not just the best of us. That’s what makes grace so amazing. We all need the grace of God—pastors, priests, religious, irreligious, spiritual, and “earthy.” Many of us are so convinced we have to get our lives together first and then come to God that we miss the point. The only way we can come to God is through grace. “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11a).

“In the story of Jesus, we find that the greatest recipients of his grace are those who needed it the most and who thought they deserved it the least. The religious elite, who thought they deserved the grace and favor of God, were those who would miss it altogether” (ibid., 49).

You and I are ushered into God’s Kingdom, not because we deserve to be there, but because God has reached out through the grace of Jesus. Is your life messy? Have you made a mountain of mistakes? Join the club. But the way out doesn’t come through trying harder, becoming more religious, or by getting your act together. The way out is by letting Jesus in. We become like a child and simply receive (Matthew 18:3), and the grace of God which covers all our sins transforms our lives from the inside out.

The next time anyone makes you the recipient of a random act of kindness, receive it with grace, as the person did above, remembering the love of God and the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. Better yet, go out and share this amazing grace, even it’s simply by demonstrating thoughtfulness, compassion, and yes, maybe giving away a Walmart gift card.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Choosing Gratitude

Some days (if I’m being honest) it’s difficult to feel grateful. Yet other times, I’m so filled with gratitude, I can’t help but feel joy and optimism. These two very different emotions are usually based on circumstances. But what if we intentionally choose to be grateful in spite of our circumstance?

Researchers describe gratitude as a personality strength—the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen and never take them for granted. It’s been shown that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are happier, healthier and more energetic. Grateful people report fewer symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and they spend more time being active. Also, the more a person is inclined to feel grateful, the less likely they are to feel lonely, stressed, anxious and depressed.

Easier said than done though—right? Have you noticed that most things in life worth doing are not done easily? Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. . . . I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

It’s not easy to get a college degree. It’s not easy to develop and maintain a healthy marriage. It’s not easy to raise children. It’s not easy to keep that job. It’s not always easy . . . to be grateful.

Sometimes the clouds cover the sun, but we choose to give thanks anyway.
Sometimes chaos overwhelms peace, but we choose to give thanks anyway.
Sometimes pain overpowers comfort, but we choose to give thanks anyway.

Gratitude is a choice we make, as are all the virtues. Love is an act of the will. Joy is an act of the will. Peace is an act of the will. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all choices we make in spite of the world around us and the feelings inside us (Galatians 5:22-23).

I choose to believe, even when doubts flood my soul. I choose to give thanks, even when my heart doesn’t feel grateful. I choose to worship, even when my voice doesn’t want to sing. I choose to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, even when I would prefer to serve myself.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

How about today, we choose to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Regardless of what you face right now, choose to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Gratitude unlocks the door to a heart of contentment, for contentment is never found in abundance alone. Contentment flows from the abundance of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).

What are you grateful for today?

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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