When Grace Steps In

It was probably her giggling that drew my attention. Sentence diagramming really wasn’t all that funny as far as I knew.

It was early May and I was facing a class of sixteen inner-city kids in South Central Los Angeles. Though I had almost three years of teaching under my belt, this particular sixth grade class had pushed me to the limits of my patience far too many times, and I was more than ready to wave goodbye to them for the summer.

I had come a long way from the idealism of my first year of teaching and living in the inner city. That first year I’d covered up the bullet hole in the window with an inspirational poster. I’d plastered the walls with pictures of places worlds removed from the industrial buildings across the street. I told the kids daily that they had something worth saying and that I could help them say it. Together we would work hard and make something of their lives.

The problem, of course, was that my ideals kept crashing up against reality. Not just the spirit-deadening reality of the inner city — gang pressures, poverty, drug-destroyed families. I was also up against the basic, universal reality of the twelve- and thirteen-year-old mind. A mind with the switch tuned in almost permanently to the channel called “You can’t make me!”

And now I was faced with a giggle when I should have had only rapt attention. Walking over to the young offender, I asked for the note she had in her hands. Frozen, she refused to give it to me. I waited, all attention in the room on the quiet battle between teacher and student. When she finally handed it over she mumbled, “Okay, but I didn’t draw it,” the first clue that this wasn’t just an ordinary note being passed.

After getting the class going on a sentence diagramming competition, I finally had a chance to sneak a peek. It was a hand-drawn picture of me, dress details down to perfection, teeth blackened, nostrils flaring, and the words “I’m stupid” coming out of my mouth. The artist had done an amazing job and there was no doubt about who it was supposed to be.

I managed to fold up the picture calmly and return to directing the competition. My mind, however, was working furiously as I wavered between wanting to cry and wanting to ream a certain few students up one side and down the next. I figured I knew the two most likely candidates for drawing the picture. It would do them some good to get taken down a notch or two, and maybe it was high time that I did it!

Thankfully, that’s when Grace intervened.

Somehow, in those moments of very real hurt and fury, God was able to save me (and my students) from myself, by asking me very softly, “You want to do it your way, or My Way?”

I’d had almost three years of mostly trying to do it my way, and my head and my heart were really beginning to hurt from pounding against so many little twelve- and thirteen-year-old walls of resistance.

“Okay, Lord,” I silently prayed, “what should I do? How can you ever bring good out of this?”

With loving faithfulness, God showed me.

When there were about six minutes of class remaining I had the kids stop what they were doing and get out a piece of paper. Then, suppressing my pride, I showed them the picture. The whole class was silent as I told them how hurtful this was for me. Struggling not to cry, I told them there must be a reason behind why someone would draw such a picture and that now was their chance to tell me anything they needed to tell me. Then I let them write silently while I sniffled in the back of the classroom.

As I looked over the notes later, many of them said something like, “I’ve got nothing against you,” or “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.” A number of them said, “You give us too much homework.” One student said, “We’re afraid of you.” And two notes, from the girls I figured were behind the picture, had a list of issues. I was too mean, too strict, and I picked on certain people too much.

Reading those notes, I realized that over the course of this year of slipshod work and incomplete assignments I had moved from being disappointed to being downright angry. Instead of encouraging my students, I had begun commanding them to achieve. I’d set high expectations without allowing for grace. Where I thought I was driving them to success I was actually driving them away.

I had some apologizing to do.

When the kids walked into my classroom the next day one boy and one girl each handed me a card. The one signed by all the boys expressed sincere regret for the ugly joke. The one from the girls asked for forgiveness.

I was dumbfounded. And more than a little humbled. I had my little speech all ready to give to the kids, but they’d beaten me to the punch. God had not only been busy softening my heart but also the hearts of my students.

If only I had let Him lead more often before this. If only this was the only time I would need to be taught this lesson.

It wasn’t. And with the help of this recalcitrant class, who I would also have as seventh and eighth graders, God gave me many more chances to learn just Who was better at teaching (and loving) inner-city kids.

Amy Morrison Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales http://www.chickensoup.com/   Changing Lives One Story At A Time

 

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The Spin About Sin Stops Here!

Sin is a condition of the heart.

Sermon Outline for August 2, 2015 ~ If you would like to hear the entire sermon go to the following link:

http://madisonmethodist.com/audio/sermons/message/the-spin-about-sin-stops-here

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Scripture Text: Genesis 3:9-17

And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? It is not a cry of a detective but of a broken heart.

10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Ten Never Changing Facts to Remember About Sin:

Sin is a willful act. Sin is a transgression against God. He calls us out of darkness and into His wonderful light.

1 John 3:4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.                                                                            John 8:10-11When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:                        1 Peter 2:9 – But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;

 Sin is a condition of the heart.

Psalm 51:5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.                                                                                                               Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.                                                              Matthew 5:19 – Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

 Sin never satisfies.

Hebrews 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

 Sin will find you out. (Note: This is the only place in the Bible that says BE SURE)

Numbers 32:23But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.

 Sin brings sorrow.

Psalm 51:3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.                                                                                                                     James 1:15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sin Hardens the heart.

Hebrews 3:13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.                   Ephesians 4:18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Matthew 15:16-20 –And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Sin affects others.

Exodus 20:5bfor I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

1 Corinthians 5:6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

People>Jesus>Saved

Sin separates me from God.

Isaiah 59:1-2Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

2 Thessalonians 1:9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

Romans 1:24 – Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves

Matthew 25:41 – Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Sin cost God His dear Son.

1 Peter 1:18-19Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible   things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Sin can be both forgiven and cleansed.

1 John 1:7-9 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness

Psalm 51:10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

John 8:36if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

God loves you.

He does not want to see you suffering in sin.

You can be free from the bondage of sin today, right now.

With a sincere heart ask the Father to forgive you and your faith will set you free.