Category Archives: Grace

God is Good!

We often hear the phrase – God is good. It is usually followed up – All the time. Then, we hear it said a different way – All the time, God is good. But what does that mean?

Too often, we have these cliches, that may be spoken with the best of intentions, but are they – spoken with any intention at all? I say this because it is so easy to say simple phrases like – I’m good or I love you or something else and they become statements that are said without meaning or real intention. In fact, in those moments, they can actually be a lie.

But when we use God’s name this way, what are we really saying? Are we trying to tell our friends, spouse or even the world that we believe that God is indeed good. Heck, in todays economy of language and word usage – what does the word good even mean? I mean when someone asks you how you are doing, what is your typical response?

“I’m good!” or “All good!”

But is that the truth? I would venture a guess that most of the time we use that phrase, it is really saying – I don’t really want to talk about. So, when a word like “good” is caught up in that kind of usage and it has become so common that it has become meaningless, how does this reflect on our statement – “God is good”?

Here is something to consider – if, in the course of our normal conversations, we have ascribed no value to a word, like good, its usage can be described as “vain” or useless, pointless – producing no result. Wouldn’t that lead us to conclude that we may be taking the Lord’s name in vain?

Or let’s go one step further. If we say that we are Christian and yet, we do not act in accordance with Christ, are we not taking His name in vain there too?

My goal here is not to condemn but to get us thinking and maybe have us to change the way we use certain phrases. Maybe we stop and think and then intentionally say – God is good, oh so good. He has done for me, what I cannot do for myself. I realize that it may be difficult to get that out in every situation. But if we are thinking that, it therefore becomes the intention of the statement. I believe that people can tell the difference but more importantly – God knows our hearts and our intention.

One last thing – God truly is good and He makes our lives matter by His goodness, love and empowering Spirit. He calls us His Masterpiece, even when we feel like we are nothing but a mess. He has a mission for us, even when we feel lost, with no purpose. Your life matters – no matter what, no matter where you are and no matter how many mistakes you have made. God is just that good!

If you get a chance, check out my books – Your Life Matters, The Toolkit To Change Your World and Transformed – A Memoir of a Life Changed By God. Both are available on Amazon or at http://www.yourlifematterstoday.com

Also, check out the new radio show/podcast on VoiceAmerica beginning 5/17/22 at 9am called – Your Life Matters Today by Dr. Cliff Robertson, Jr. My first guest is my long-time friend – Cesar Cantu, the current Executive Director of The Warriors Refuge.

God Bless You!

Dr Cliff

Love Yourself!

Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, as ourselves. Great! But how do we do that, when we do not first love ourselves? And for that matter… how do we love ourselves? Is it about a pampered day at a spa?

No – unless of course you plan to love those around you that way, and you believe that is what Jesus had in mind.

I believe we love ourselves by taking care of our minds, bodies and souls. Beginning with the soul – we give our hearts, our faith, to Jesus. We feed that soul with His word. We feed our soul with good music that moves us to a closer relationship with Him. We are involved in church – His body. We talk with Him – daily. We cherish the gifts from God – our spouse, children… all of it.

Loving our bodies is easy to define, but hard to do. We eat better and exercise – this is love. We go to the doctor for check ups – this is love. There is more here but that’s the basics.

Loving our minds can be a bit tricky. The main ways we love our minds is through positive mental health and controlling the things we allow into our heads. Mental health includes the depression and anxiety we deal with. The grief that we often ignore due to busyness. The need to speak to a professional because it is overwhelming. Unpacking the past – the tragedies and neglect, the hurts and the hang ups. All of it. The truth is that unless we deal with it, one day it will deal with us. And how can we love someone else, who is going through the valley of the shadow of death, when we refuse to deal with our own?

Finally, we love our minds by controlling the inputs. The world has a message for you that may not be healthy for your mind to hear. They could be selling you things that are a lie. Social media can be good and can be bad. Too much of it has been shown to be bad for our mental health. They portray images of perfect families, on perfect vacations and leave out the pain and challenges – they leave out “the rest of the story.” I recommend taking a social media fast. Make it a week, minimum. See how you feel about it at the end of the week.

When we do these things- and for the record, this is not a comprehensive list – we will be loving ourselves. Now- go love your neighbor as you have loved yourself.

#yourlifematters

God bless you!

Dr Cliff

Good Friday? What exactly is so good about it?

When I hear the word “good”, I think of things that bring a smile, or something that is positive in my life or the world. I think of a light rain that waters the grass. I think of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. I think of the embrace of my wife and her kisses. I think of how God describes His creation…

It is difficult for my human brain to understand how a day filled with severe, disfiguring pain can be good. Two beams of wood, three large spikes, and a long walk to Golgotha… can’t be good, right? To think of these spikes, driven into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ as he is nailed to the cross…

To imagine him placed on this cross, where He struggled to breathe, until He breathed His last… All of this while He is forgiving His executors, and inviting the one next to Him to join Him in paradise… how can we describe this as anything but horrific and tragic?

And yet… it was good.

This is Friday and all appears to be lost… but Sunday’s coming… to use all the pain and suffering for the good.

Jesus was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. Along with Nicodemus, they wrapped Jesus’s body in burial cloth. They rolled a big stone over the front of the tomb, and walked away… Their thoughts are not recorded but can you imagine what they were thinking? Burying someone who had taught and performed miracles before them…

Guards were placed outside the tomb for fear that someone might come and take the body.

His disciples hid for fear that His fate would be their own. Women wept and planned to come back to the tomb and give His body the traditional burial treatments.

In their grief, everyone thought it was over… But God…

In God’s economy, the word “good” is not used often. The first time it is used was when God described His creation. So if we take that meaning and apply it to this day of events, we can see He is calling it Creation Level Good! What He is saying is that what has happened on Friday is about to change the world! And change the world in a way that is beyond anyone’s capacity to comprehend.

You see, what appears to be over and impossible… does not necessarily make it so. With God… all things are possible.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

Dr. Cliff

#YourLifeMatters

Who Do You Say You Are?

Can I get an amen?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21

When we think about ourselves, who do we say we are? What are our thoughts about self? I know that when I say those words, my initial thoughts are – I don’t think about me. But is that true?

It is easy to run ourselves down, but why? When we look at a concept called Social Comparison Theory, it tells us that we are often comparing ourselves with others. In the age of social media and digital air-brushing, the impact is often fairly negative.

But the truth is that this isn’t new. The battle to keep up with our neighbors or peers is an age old conundrum . The problem with it is that you can never win. The comparison cycle goes on and on and if we continue down that path long enough, we can destroy ourselves – mentally, emotionally and financially.

What if we stepped off the comparison treadmill and looked at things from a different paradigm?

When Leonardo DaVinci looked at a block of granite, he saw an image that was present beneath the surface before he hit it with the first strike of the chisel. The Creator can always see the end from the beginning because He has a plan.

The same is true for you. Your Creator, God Almighty, can see who you are and what you are meant to be, even if no one else can. He call us “chosen”, “a child of the king”, “saved”, “forgiven” and a “masterpiece”.

Let’s redirect our minds and hearts to hear what our Creator is saying…

We can do this by seeking Him in His word. Devotionals are good sources for this. I use a free one called – Our Daily Bread. I read it almost every morning as part of my daily routine. It fills me with His word and some stories that help me to apply it to my life.

Also, you might consider my new book – Your Life Matters. I talk about this subject at length and I think you may find some encouragement there as well. It’s available here on this website or you can go to Amazon and look up the title plus my name –

Dr Cliff

God Bless You!

Continue reading Who Do You Say You Are?

Excerpt of Chapter 2 The Invisible Pain – Depression and Mental Health

Here is the 3rd Installment from the book – Your Life Matters!

The Invisible Pain of Depression/Mental Health

Depression and mental health issues are rampant in our world today. I see it in my work as a counselor and in my capacity as founder of a veteran’s homeless shelter. I live it every day.

As a pastor, I used to run a small group that focused on mental health, and it was the most widely group in the church. Statistics from the psychiatry.org website show that depression is an epidemic. About 17% of people walking around at any given time are suffering from depression

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics showing that up to 25% of the world population suffers from a recognized anxiety disorder and yet, only about one-third of those are seeking any sort of treatment

When we are depressed, we feel like doing nothing. Or worse, we may feel like taking our own lives. We may feel like our lives are over or it will never get any better. We feel like our lives do not matter, but that is a lie.

There have been points in my life when I have struggled with depression. Sometimes it seemed so dark, I didn’t know the way out. One day, in particular, a friend checked on me and I told her I was struggling.

She told me “Get out of the house. It’s too beautiful a day to stay inside.”

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I went outside while we talked.

“Cliff, now drive to Wal Mart. When you get there buy a fall plant, in a planter and give it to someone–anyone you see that might benefit from a little brightness in their day.”

“Are you serious? You want me to go and buy a plant or flowers for someone I don’t know and give it to them? They are going to think I’m crazy. They’ll think I’m a stalker and just weird.”

“Go and do it,” she insisted.

Reluctantly, I got in my car and deliberately drove past the Wal Mart near my home to a grocery store across town, hoping to avoid seeing anyone I knew. They’d certainly think I had lost my mind.

I took a deep breath and plodded inside. A beautiful display of fall plants greeted me near the entrance. At $10 each, I could do this. I looked over the plants and grabbed the first one I saw that looked decent and headed for the checkout.

After I paid for the plant and headed out the exit door, I stood to the right and watched the people coming and going. How strange that no one looked at anyone else. Even stranger that I stood there with an eye for giving something away to a perfect stranger.

Where do I begin? How do I choose? Some people were dressed up and others dressed down. Then I spotted an elderly lady coming out of the store. She took short deliberate steps with her cart of groceries, focused on the asphalt in front of her. She pushed as if she were using all her strength to push a sled uphill.

I walked to her, smiled. “Hi, my name is Cliff, and I would like to give you this plant for your home and maybe if you would let me, help you to your car with these groceries.”

She looked at me with a hint of a smile along with questions on her face. When she saw the plant in my hand, she lit up like a Christmas tree. “That’s the nicest thing anyone ever offered to do for me.”

I unloaded the groceries into her car and placed the plant in the seat next to her.

She gave me the biggest hug I had received in a long time and told me, “You absolutely made my day. Thank you so much.”

For the first time in a while, a smile crept over my face. I told her, “You made a difference in my life too.”

She tilted her head a little sideways with a question in her eyes, and then waved it off and thanked me again.

I’m not sure why I didn’t tell her why I came and bought a gift for a stranger. Somehow it seemed like it might dim the beauty of the moment. It was enough for me to know that I had made a difference in someone’s life. At that moment, that mattered more to me than I have words to express.

The depression that weighed me down, evaporated. That was a miracle to me. In fact, it felt so good, that I went back into the store and did it again and it was just as awesome the second time. I still do that from time to time.

By the way, I ended up marrying that friend who recommended it, but we’ll get back to that later.

I have learned that when you do something for someone else who cannot repay you, it’s as much a gift to you as it is to them.

This is all tied to a psychological theory called “Positive Psychology.” We discuss this at length in the tool kit section of this book. Feel free to skip ahead and read it. It’s important stuff.

Do you like what you read so far?

Let me know what you think.

Dr. Cliff

What Can One Person Do? Book Excerpt #2

Here is part of the first chapter of Your Life Matters. Let me know what you think.

What Can One Person Really Do?

My granny raised my sister and me after our parents divorced. Looking back, I am truly amazed at what she did for us.

Granny took us everywhere, never complaining or griping about it. She simply told us to get in the car with all of our stuff and “let’s go.” I played little league Red Devil football. We practiced three times a week and then played a game once a week in Houston, an hour away.

One time, my game started early in the evening. Granny dropped me off and she and my sister went to get something to eat. On their way back, she turned into the parking lot but missed the entrance and drove into a ditch. A deep ditch. Too deep to drive out of. They had to call a wrecker to pull it out.

They didn’t discuss the mishap in front of me. If my sister hadn’t told me about it, I would have never heard about it.

Granny told me, “Well, Bubba, these things happen. We weren’t hurt. The car wasn’t damaged. No big deal.” She let these things roll off her back like water off the back of a duck.

~

I learned a lot from Granny’s tales. She told me a story she heard while she was in nurse training. It was about a nurse and a little girl.

The little girl, Annie, had been diagnosed as hopelessly insane. They locked her up in the dungeon of a mental institution on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. People said that this young girl was so far gone that there were times when she acted like a wild animal. She would attack anyone who dared to come close to her. They labeled her Crazy Annie.

Other times, Annie would be completely catatonic and wouldn’t recognize anything. She sat, staring at the walls for days on end. No one knew of a treatment plan or had any hope that Crazy Annie would ever get better. They had locked her up and thrown away the key.

But an elderly nurse, a woman of faith, believed God could do what modern medicine could not. She believed and had hope for all of God’s children and Little Annie was one of them.

So, she started with taking the long trek down to the dungeon every day to eat her lunch outside of Little Annie’s cage. The nurse had a deep desire to communicate her love for Annie as well as God’s love for the girl, but she didn’t know how to reach her. She only knew she had to go.

Each day, she ate her lunch beside Annie’s cage and talked to Annie with no response. Some days she sang for her, but Annie didn’t respond to that either. One day, the nurse left her dessert, a chocolate brownie, beside Annie’s cage.

Annie didn’t acknowledge the brownie beside her while the nurse remained, but when the nurse came back the next day, the brownie was gone. Every Thursday, the nurse would bring her dessert and leave it for Annie. When she returned the next day, it would be gone.

Something began to change through these simple acts of love and kindness that no one could explain. After several weeks passed, doctors noticed small improvements in Annie. Then, after a few months, the improvements were so profound, they transferred her out of the cage and moved her upstairs into a lower level of security. Eventually, the staff allowed her to be among the general population.

Finally, one day the doctors told the formerly hopelessly insane Little Annie she was well and could go home. However, she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and help others who were diagnosed as she had been.

You may recognize her name. Annie Sullivan. The same woman who later helped Helen Keller walk out of her darkness and into the light of a future. Helen and Annie inspired generations of people.

One elderly nurse, headed toward the end of her career, made a difference by sharing a few words, a little music, and some dessert. The hopelessly insane little girl who experienced love from that nurse, went on to impact a blind and deaf girl who changed the world.

When my Granny told me about the nurse and girl, I didn’t fully understand it. I thought it was a great story, but when she told me the rest of the story, I never forgot it.

Granny said, “This one nurse’s care and compassion had effectively changed the world. Think about it, Bubba. How many people did Ann Sullivan and Helen Keller impact during their lifetimes, and even today?”

_____________________________________________________

So how would you answer Granny? Can you see yourself in this one? Where have you reached out and helped – just because you could?

Let me know what you think and if you would like to see more.

Dr. Cliff

The 800lb Gorilla – aka Depression

Ever experience the 800lb Gorilla? You know… when it feels like it is sitting on your chest and it won’t move. So you stay in bed until there is just know way you can stay another moment.

Or he could be on your shoulders, making you feel like the weight of the world is coming down on you and you can truly relate to Ayn Rands book title – Atlas Shrugged. But you feel like you are about to collapse… and maybe you finally do.

Sometimes depression is circumstance driven – in other words, there is something going on that makes you feel depressed. This could be from:

Loss – losing a loved one, loss of job, a relationship ending, losing a beloved animal, missed opportunity… and many more.

Feeling of Inadequacy- someone said something unkind, a decision you made turned out bad and you feel like a failure, someone said no to your dream, you didn’t get the job, you are being treated poorly, bullied, …. and many more!

That 800lb Gorilla can also be a chemical imbalance that leads to neurotransmitters not firing the way they should. If you cannot point to something that is causing you to feel depressed, then this is probably it and you need to see your medical professional right away.

Truth be told, regardless of the situation, if you are feeling depressed, seeing a qualified counselor should be the minimum that you do. If you need a recommendation, go to counseling.org and the ACA will refer you to some options in your area. I would also seek out a pastor you trust.

Now that we have established a baseline minimum, there are a few things you should know-

1. You have a 100% perfect record of coming through tough times to date. You can make it.

2. God is not punishing you. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Look to Him and He will see you through. In fact His Word tells us to expect tough times and for life to be so challenging at times, it brings us to our knees – but God is there for you, even in the darkest of days.

So… what can you do, right now, to get past this place you find yourself in? First thing I want you to know is that #yourlifematters. Some of my other posts will help you with that topic.

Next thing I want you to do is called – breaking up the narrative. What I mean by that is when you find yourself in a place of depression, oftentimes we can start to spiral down because of how we talk to ourselves and think about it. What I want you to do is physically leave wherever you are and engage in something different, positive and challenging. Maybe it is a work project. Maybe it is walking down the street/going to the gym, reading a funny and inspiring book or talking to a good friend/family member who always has a positive outlook and knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. Break up the narrative.

Then, I want you to go do something positive and meaningful (albeit small/not expensive) for someone who cannot pay you back or maybe doesn’t even know that you did it… but make sure you get to see the joy on their face. And then I would repeat this 2-3 times a week for the next month. Then I would go to once a week but never less. This has been shown to have an immediate impact on your sense of well-being, aka – happiness – equivalent to getting a 50k bump in salary. If you don’t believe me, google “positive psychology “.

Next I want you to either get a journal, notepad or heck, even a scrap of paper will work. Then I want you to write down one thing that you are grateful for – today. Maybe it’s the air you breathe. Maybe it’s something more – keep it simple. Then tomorrow, write down two things that you are grateful for. And the next day, 3. Then follow up the 4th day with 4, until you get to the fifth day and max out at 5. Now don’t make this complicated – you can use some of the same things day after day.

There are more things you can do but these are a good start. I want you to know that you too can defeat the 800lb Gorilla! I have defeated him on a number of occasions doing exactly the things that I am recommending to you.

Stay tuned for more information on this topic. And never forget- #yourlifematters !

God Bless,

Dr Cliff

Why Today Matters

We have all heard the saying – live like today is your last day on earth. While that is easy to say, it is not a realistic thing to ascribe to. The reason is simple – we have obligations, commitments, relationships and jobs. What happens if we decide to live the abandon that the mantra suggests? We may not be able to eat tomorrow – We may not have a job, a house, or many of the other necessary things.

Living like there is no tomorrow is reckless and not something people can reasonably do. But… what if we tapped into some of that “recklessness and abandon” without falling off the deep end and losing or giving away everything?

Let me explain – Yesterday is over and cannot be undone. Tomorrow is a hope but not promised. Today is our reality and we have to claim it for all it’s worth. But how do we reconcile the potential for tomorrow, with the absolute certainty of today and the need to live in the moment?

One of the great quotes on this say, “Only put off till tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso. I love that quote and it really crystalizes the necessity and importance of today – why today matters.

So let me ask you a question – what are you not willing to leave undone, today, in light of the potential that tomorrow may not come? For me that is simple and here is my list –

  1. Love my wife! I want her to know that without doubt – she is the most loved woman on the planet and that her future is as secure as I can make it. Done
  2. The bills are paid. The last thing that I want her to worry about is whether the bills are paid – and they are. Done
  3. Writing – I feel like I needed to write today – specifically about this topic. I will not leave this undone today. Doing it now!
  4. Take care of my health – exercise. Done
  5. I want each family member to know that they are loved by me. Done!

There are other things that I need to get done today but if they do not happen today, I would not worry about it being left undone but the above things, really matter today – because today matters.

With the rest of the day before me – what else can I do to make the most of the day? It’s going to be a great day.

Now it is your turn – have you made the “cannot remain undone” list yet? If so, great. If not, then stop and do it now.

As I look back over what I have written today, I will tell you that this has challenged me. While I was writing the “cannot remain undone” list, I had to stop and do some of those very things. When I am done writing this post, I will go to work on what’s next.

What’s next for you?

May God richly bless you in all that you do. And always remember – #YOURLIFEMATTERS

Dr. Cliff

#YourLifeMatters – The Transformation Project

“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”

See the source image

Two Questions I always ask those who are assembled –

  1. Is there anyone that can see any reason why these two should not be married, if so speak now or forever hold your peace?
  2. Who here will be willing to support this marital union with the love and support they will need on this life long journey?

Marriage is an institution created by God – We find this in Genesis 2:24 where God says –

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”

(Talk about the meaning of leave & cleave)

Instructions for Husbands continue –

1 Peter 3:7 – Likewise Husbands, dwell them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel

(Talk about knowledge – come back to weaker vessel in the Unity Heart)

Then finally – Ephesians 5:25

               Instructions for Wife –    Ephesians talks a lot about marriage – one of the main things I want to mention is the idea of respect – Which is the greatest need of men – to be respected and Eph 5:33 tells us this clearly. Earlier it also talks about submitting to your husband, as to the Lord, as the head of the house. While I realize that some of these concepts are not popular in todays society, I can tell you that if you have a marriage filled with the love of God for one another, it is as natural as breathing, especially when we look at a previous passage that tells you guys to submit one to another in the fear of God.

After hearing all of that – let’s proceed with the vows.

“Will you (Gary Ken Briden, Jr./Amanda Lee Cosby) have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”

Then Repeat after me

“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”

Exchange of rings

Rings are a symbol of love and the nature of love that has no beginning or end. You see I believe that this kind of love is a gift from God, that was ordained from long before and was therefore just waiting to be discovered and it just continues through eternity.

Ken – repeat after me – “With this ring, I thee wed.”

Amanda – repeat after me – “With this ring I thee wed.”

UNITY HEART

Prior to this wedding we had two hearts here – and they are represented by these two sculptures. The grooms is the outer and the brides is the inner. The grooms is representative of a sturdy sense of strength, protection and security but by itself is empty. The brides heart is represented here as an intricately carved piece of artwork, beautiful but by itself is left unprotected  – I want to talk a moment about the Biblical Idea of the “Weaker Vessel” and what this means…

When we put these together, by themselves they are beautiful but still there is a third element that ties it all together and makes them one – the power that created the Universe, who invited love and marriage – God Almighty.

I now pronounce you husband and wife – you may kiss the bride.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I be the first to present to you – Mr. & Mrs. Briden!

This weekend, I was asked to perform a wedding, as an ordained minister, it isn’t my first time but it was really special – this was my first time back in this role in almost two years and it was for a good friend who works for me. I have seen this friend of mine go from homeless to hopeful to hopelessly in love and it has been a beautiful transformation to watch. The pain of a past relationship/marriage breakup, whose wounds were still fresh, seemed to be soothed and healed by the refreshing balm of love. This is beautiful – transformative.

I included my notes from this wedding just as a backdrop to a larger truth – if we set out with our hearts open to what God has for us, we too can experience the beautiful and transformative love of our Creator. It may not be in the form of a wedding, a new relationship but it will always be miraculous.

In this life, we see so much… but the two constants are the unchanging love of God and the fact that everything else around us is changing. So with everything around us changing at the speed of technology, social media and the general craziness this world brings to us everyday, I believe that having a firm foundation in love of God, whom is unchanging, is essential.

With so many hurting people in this world that are in dire need of love and positive change in their lives, along with a positive self-image, that is not drive by social media or the trends of the day, I am modifying the name of this blog to – #YOUR LIFE MATTERS – The Transformation Project. My goal is to change the world, one story, one life, one heart at a time.

But I will let you in on a little secret – I can’t do it by myself. Will you help? Will you share the stories, commit to helping one person have a better life this year and encourage others to do the same? If so, together, we can create a movement that truly does change the world.

With much love,

Dr. Cliff Robertson, Jr.

What is Amazing Grace?

AmazingGrace

 

We have all heard the song. Most of us know it well. A major Christian recording artist has added verses to it…(Chris Tomlin – My Chains Are Gone). In fact, let’s listen to it now…

I remember one time, above all others, that I heard Amazing Grace, and my soul was moved to tears. It was the evening I heard two men playing those familiar notes with bagpipes. Ohhh, it was so beautiful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Wait until the end, and we will play this version as well.

 

Yet, do we understand what the song truly means? I believe one way to understand what Amazing Grace really is, will be to look at the one who wrote it – John Newton. He wasn’t your typical hymn writer, for sure. The history of John Newton is interesting and colorful. He was drafted into the Royal Navy as a young man. In reality, he was forced to serve. 

 

He wasn’t one of those guys who really got along well with others. He was insubordinate to command, and consistently got in fights with fellow sailors. Because of his constant disruption, he spent time in the brig – a lot of time. When he wasn’t in the brig, the captain came up with a song that openly mocked him. The entire crew would sing:  “What are you going to do then… the next job is a very long swim???”

 

Eventually, his time of forced service was over.  His search to make decent wages then led him work for slave traders. This was a godless job. The enslaved men, women, and children were crammed into coffin-like quarters for weeks and sometimes months. The ship sailed across the sea from Africa,  to various trading outposts around the known world.

The lack of humanity on the ship began to trouble young John Newton, but he didn’t understand it all.

 

So one day… God helped him to understand. A terrible storm came upon the ship, and everyone aboard was certain that death was imminent. John did what many of us have done – he cried out to God for mercy. The ship was saved. While the ship was being repaired, John Newton began to write the song. The slave trading troubled him greatly. He wrote that the cries of the suffering captives would haunt him to no end. He began to seek Christ but … he couldn’t seem to give up this horrific job. The money was too good and he didn’t know what else he would do.

 

In fact, history tells us that it was 11 years later before he finally walked away from the slave ships. When he did, he began to study Christian Theology and write. He gave his life to God at sea, but it had taken him 11 years to truly turn from his past…

 

How many of us can testify to that? How many of can say, “I know Christ but my life still isn’t right?

 

To me, that is the definition of “Amazing Grace”…the grace we do not deserve. In fact it is defined in the New Testament as “unmerited favor”. To break that down even further, it means:  An Exception to the Rules We Do Not Deserve! You see, if John Newton had been judged and condemned by his actions for the eleven years after he was saved,  he would have been in trouble. Thankfully, God’s Amazing Grace forgave him. 

 

God knows we are going to miss the mark, mess up, and fall down. That’s why grace isn’t earned by our good works.  “It’s the gift of God lest any man should boast”.

 

We are even told that our best works – the ones we are the most proud of, are like filthy rags when compared to the work of God in our lives, and the perfect righteousness that He imparts to us. That’s grace, and it really is pretty amazing.

 

So the next time you sing Amazing Grace, think about how you have stumbled in the dark. Think about how lost you have been. Remember the story of the man who got it wrong most of his life. Even after he cried out for mercy, he still messed it up…but God  loved him nevertheless. God had a plan for John Newton’s life. He is still using the song John wrote to draw people nearer to Him, two hundred years after his death. 

 

To think… He will do that for you too!

Let the sound of the Scottish Bagpipes touch your soul…