We All Need Grace, and Getting It Comes Down to a Choice

This Is True for All Life’s Important Decisions

Our whole life is made up of decisions. It’s up to us to make the right choices.

Too often we don’t.

Sometimes it’s because our life situation is all we’ve ever known.

This was the case for Johnny Lee Clary. He grew up in a family full of hate and fear. His family was racist and full of aggression.

“There was a lot of alcoholism in our home and fighting all the time. My mother was constantly cheating on my father. My mother drove my father into bankruptcy, and then my father was faced with losing everything he had worked hard for.

I watched my father, one night, take a pistol and put it to his head and blow his brains out.”

Johnny was only 11 years old when his father died. Immediately after the funeral, his mother put him on a bus and sent me out to California to go live with his sister.

“That just made me hate that much more. So, I was hating everyone. At 14 years old, I felt like committing suicide myself.  I was thinking seriously about ending my life so I could go be with my dad.”

Then he saw David Duke, head of the Ku Lux Klan on television telling everybody that the White people needed to stick together. This made him feel some kind of a weird connection to his dad.

Johnny wrote Duke a letter telling him his life story. Before long, there was a knock on the door.

“I opened up the door, he shook my hand and said, ‘I’m a friend of David Duke’s.  We’re here to protect you, son.  What you need is a family.’”

The Klansmen taught Johnny the ways of the KKK. When he was 18, he returned to Oklahoma to start his own Klan chapter. Eventually he rose to the rank of Imperial Wizard, the Klan’s top leadership position.

“I finally felt like I’d found something that I could amount to in life.

The FBI opened an investigation on Johnny. He knew it was just a matter of time before he was going to end up getting arrested.

Johnny decided his only shot of staying out of prison was to step down as Imperial Wizard. But when he did, the Klan turned on him, fearing that he was an FBI informant.

Once again, he became a person without any friends. He started drinking, and the fear and hate consumed him.

“I thought of my daddy and I thought Daddy had the right idea. I sat down and was looking at the gun and there was a Bible sitting there. I thought that there is no possible way that the good Lord can forgive somebody like me, because I had been so full of hate. I had all the violence and lived such a bad life.”

He flipped open the Bible and it opened to Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son.

Johnny read Jesus’ parable of the young man who demanded his inheritance from his father, then squandered it all. He returned home to the father remorseful. His father did not chastise him, instead he celebrated his return.

“I finally got on my knees and said, ‘God, my life is screwed up.  God, I’m in a mess.  I need Your help.’”

He went to a nearby church. What he saw there amazed him: Blacks and Whites sitting together.  This moved Johnny’s heart, and at the end of the service, he gave his life to Christ.

“I felt like a new person, brand new creation.  I felt like I had had a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Johnny wanted to share this with others but didn’t know how to get started, so he called on the Rev. Wade Watts, Minister of an African-American church that the Klan harassed.

“The Klan had set fire to his church and did everything under the sun to harass this man. I remember he debated me at a radio station one time. He looked right at me, and he goes, ‘You can’t do enough to me to make me hate you.  I’m going to love you. I’m going to pray for you whether you like it or not.’”

Johnny went to Rev. Wade Watts and they became good friends.

Johnny learned how to love and live in unity with all people.

“Not only has He given me a good wife to stand by my side, but He’s given me good friends. He’s given me a good life here on earth.  He’s given me hope, gave me the gift of love. Taught me what love’s all about. Isn’t that what God is? 

God is love. 

I’m not that mixed up kid looking for a family anymore.  I’ve got a family. I’ve got a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

More of Johnny’s story

Most of our have not experienced or done the things that Johnny did, but we all need grace. If he can receive it, so can you.

Receiving grace is a choice and available to anyone who asks for it.

It’s Important to be Intentional and Choose Your Situations Wisely

It’s Amazing…He Looks Just Like You

Pastor Lee shared a story this week about a missionary couple that had small children. When the couple left for a short overseas mission trip, they left the children with family. While in this foreign country war broke out and the couple was unable to get home…for eight years. When they came home the oldest son, now a young man, met them at the train station. After the mother hugged her son, she stepped back, looked at him and said, “He looks just like you.”

We’ve all experienced the resemblance of families. This is something much more than just DNA. This includes the habits, actions, expressions, mannerisms, etc. of those we spend the most time with.

You will become what you surround yourself with.

You will become what you read, what you listen to, what you watch. You will speak the language, wear the clothes, develop the habits and live the lifestyle of those you hang out with. If you associate with chickens, you will scratch the ground squabbling over crumbs. If you associate with eagles you will learn to soar to great heights. (2nd Decision I will seek wisdom, from The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews)

This is why it’s critically important to make your choices wisely.

 A missionary in Africa tells a story about woman that faithfully came to church. Each time she came her dog came with her. She would set at the end of the same row each week and the dog sat beside her in the isle. Then at the end of service the dog followed her to the altar where she knelt and prayed.

This women’s husband was mean and abusive to her. Then in one of his abusive episodes he killed her. Because they lived in a small village there was no repercussions for his actions. He and the dog just continued like nothing had changed.

One day the husband noticed that the dog was leaving and gone for a couple of hours at the same time each week. After a while he became curious and followed the dog.

The dog was going to the church service and setting at the same place it always had and then going to the altar. The people of the church knew what the man had done and even so, they still welcomed him in Christian love.

The man was so moved that he repented of his sins and accepted Jesus into his life.

When we hear the Good News about God saving us and believe in the message of Christ, God puts His special mark on us. This mark being the Holy Spirit. Then we can enjoy the complete freedom that comes from belonging to Him. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

God can do amazing things if we will trust Him and obey His instructions. Just like in the song, Trust and Obey, there’s no other way. This is how we can be happy and enjoy the favor that He gives.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we will be like Him.

Suffering Has Always Been a Part of Life

What Are You Going to Do About It?

Suffering and perspective have been a common theme over the past several weeks. It started with the importance of making every day a day of thanksgiving. There’s no question that there’s suffering in the world. It’s been this way since Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden.

Looking back through history at things people have had to endure is easy to read or talk about, but we can’t really compare our current situations to those. We haven’t had to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years with no place to call home. Or be imprisoned in a concentration camp because of our religion. Or lived in a sod house without any electricity, water, central HVAC, and not being able to go to the store to get food.

Sure, there are things every day that are difficult, but we’ve become spoiled!

Doug Miller presented the message Sunday in Pastor Lee’s absence. The point of his message was one of hope, support, and perspective. If anyone can speak to suffering, it’s the Miller family. They dealt with the death of both a mother and a daughter within a week in December. You can see the heart felt message here.

Of course, we want a world without suffering but that’s not going to happen. Doug pointed out that they’re doing okay because of being supported by family, friends, and prayer.

Support of family and friends is critical to well-being.

They found blessings in part because they were looking for them. Looking for this support started long ago being raised in the family and church that they were. All along the way decisions were being made that lead to this place. The decisions we make today will have consequences in the future.

Choose your friends well. Life is hard, but it’s harder if you try to go it alone.

This also means that we need to be willing to be good friends, because there’s always a need for good friends. You can choose your friends. You can choose to be a friend. You can choose how you will deal with life’s difficulties.

You can choose!

If I Scratch in the Dirt with Chickens, Crumbs Is All I’ll Get

 

 

 

 

Hanging Out with Eagles Helps Me Soar to Greater Heights

 

Last week I wrote about the importance of a loving church family from Pastor Lee’s message last Sunday. This week’s conclusion of the faith sharing series included sharing of personal stories.

From these stories there were struggles shared, faith expressed and confirmation of the importance of a loving church.

Tears were shed and bonds were strengthened. In the sharing, both last week and this, the one thing that was evident was the importance of being surrounded by the love and support of others.

Those with whom we choose to associate with directly affect who we’ll become, either good or bad. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Your friends are a statement of who you are choosing to become. 

Choose to hang out with eagles.

 

It’s evident that we are influenced by who we choose to associate with, on the other side, we influence others who associate with us. We have been called by Jesus to be salt and light to the world. We need to be lifting others up and helping them to soar higher.

 

Choose to be an eagle to others.

Influence is both powerful and gradual. Everything is always changing, either toward good or bad. What’s important is that we are intentional about the influences in our lives and choose the good.

We can choose to scratch in the dirt with chickens or we can fly with the eagles. It’s up to you which you choose, but you were made to fly.