Thankfulness keeps the message of Christ’s sacrifice alive in my heart and mind.
By Cindi Wood
When you love the Lord and interact with Him daily, He fortifies your heart and mind to receive new insights from Him — and that’s sweet! He’d begun preparing my heart a month earlier at a Sunday evening worship service at my church. We’d sung a couple of the old songs. I blush now, thinking back to my reaction to those songs with the antiquated tempos and lyrics: I wish we’d keep the music up to date on Sunday nights. The contemporary music we sing in the mornings is so much more worshipful.
Right in the middle of that musing, God nudged me to take a look at the old hymnal my parents had given me. As I pulled it from the bookshelf and opened the pages, tears streaked my face. I turned to the first song I’d learned to play on the piano, “At Calvary.”
I saw myself, a small 5-year-old, seated beside my grandmother at the old piano that now rests in my home. She patiently stretched my little fingers across the keys and taught me to play and sing the song that now — 50 years later — is having an even greater impact on my life. As my eyes scanned the words to that old familiar hymn, a freshness (stronger than the musty smell hovering on that page) burst forth in my heart. I was seeing these words for the first time!
Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary. Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty At Calvary.
As I embraced the message of this great old hymn, the phrase Caring not my Lord was crucified, slowly inched its way into the crevices of my heart. I was at once thrilled and heartbroken. Thrilled because of my newly-realized discovery. Heartbroken that it seemed to describe me.
So many years of knowing and loving Jesus, yet never really caring about what He had done for me. I knew about it but had not cared. Caring, in the sense of thanking Him and giving serious attention to the cross daily, had not been of paramount importance to me. I was suddenly so ashamed at such a grievous offense. The guilt weaseled in.
It’s important to let you know that during that moment of conviction, I was drenched with a deluge of God’s grace. Immediately He seemed to say, Yesterday was an important part of today’s journey. Continue now with opened eyes and opened heart to see and receive all that is yours. Ahh, the sweet grace of our Lord; grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
When you begin to focus on the unseen cross rather than your seen circumstances, you’ll begin to taste and then savor the glorious freedom won for you by your Lord Jesus Christ.
This marvelous grace. You don’t have to pay for it, work for it, or perform to get it. It’s yours for the taking.
As my eyes scanned the words to that old familiar hymn, a freshness (stronger than the musty smell hovering on that page) burst forth in my heart.
Just drop by your favorite fast-food restaurant or coffee shop at the same time every day for a week and notice who’s there, besides you. And if you look closer, you’ll probably notice people behaving in the same way each day. We seem to find comfort in establishing daily rituals. These habits bring us security and establish our priorities. Whether it’s nestling in our favorite spot to browse the Internet or reading a special book before going to bed, we love our daily habits.
Habits cover all sorts of behaviors and revolve around things like food, exercise, thought patterns, routines having to do with different times of day, and so forth.
We make time for what’s important. We create habits and routines around things and people we value. Establishing a new habit doesn’t always come easily, but we persevere and make it so because we want to incorporate it into our daily lives. It’s a gloriously divine training process when it’s a godly habit we’re working on.
When I initiated my personal habit of getting up early to spend time with God, I was a busy young mother with a full-time teaching job. In order to have those moments with the Lord I so desperately wanted, I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. I remember falling asleep morning after morning. It was tough, but I became a stubborn woman on a mission to get alone with God. By His grace, I persevered until a “new norm for Cindi” was birthed. That’s been quite a few years ago, but that habit remains fixed as a priority in my life.
With my new revelations about Christ’s sacrificial love and the benefits belonging to me as His child, I’ve become eager and joyful in establishing new habits of focusing on the cross. Every day, I think about the truths I’ve learned surrounding His blood and His grace. For me, it’s exhilarating to review and meditate on those Old Testament Scripture passages that point to His sacrifice now that I more deeply understand them. Yes, siree, I’m going back to my spiritual roots and grabbing hold of a newly recognized joy that’s causing me to dance and sing and twirl around in His love. Psalm 68:3 says, “When the righteous see God in action they’ll laugh, they’ll sing, they’ll laugh and sing for joy” (The Message).
The longer I pored over this old hymn, the phrase Caring not my Lord was crucified, slowly inched its way into the crevices of my heart. I was at once thrilled and heartbroken. Thrilled because of my newly-realized discovery. Heartbroken that it seemed to describe me.
Here are simple ways I keep my cross passion fresh and exciting every day.
- I sing cross songs. Sometimes I sing these during my early morning worship time. Quite often, I sing them while driving. There are many beautiful old and newer contemporary songs about the cross.
- I embrace Scriptures about the cross. By embrace I mean take and receive gladly what God’s Word says about Jesus’ death and resurrection. For example, Ephesians 2:1-10 causes me to think about and celebrate my new life in Christ as opposed to my dead carnality before His resurrection. In my devotion each day, I include a passage about His blood, grace, or sacrifice. I pause during the day and deliberately think about these things. His Word has become more personal and meaningful as I go through my day.
- I thank Him! My heart has undergone such regeneration as I’ve become acquainted with and embraced the cross. More often than not, I can’t sing cross songs or study cross Scriptures without exploding in thankfulness. But even on those days when I don’t feel the ecstasy, I speak words of thankfulness for Jesus’ death and resurrection. A thankful heart keeps the message of the cross alive in my heart and mind.
- I keep the cross before me visually. If you don’t share my personality style, this may come across as rather cheesy, so remember to extend some grace. With a marker, I place a small cross on my big toe. You see, my heart “has it,” but my mind and will need some spiritual boot camp training. As I step through my day, this visual reminder trains me to move forward keeping the sacrifice of Jesus fresh on my mind.
- I memorize Scripture. Whatever the need, there’s a Scripture to match. For instance, when I struggle with a guilt issue, I memorize a Scripture about the forgiveness of sin. Memorizing verses about God’s grace helps me experience His freedom in my thought life. Tucking verses in my heart and mind about Jesus’ blood keeps me engaged with His power. Scripture memory comes so much easier when you understand the passage and make its message personal to you.
I think about the cross when I wake up and before going to sleep. I love tucking my day between thoughts of the cross. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, each day holds fresh meaning. Accepting His grace has ushered me into new areas of freedom I never thought possible. Appropriating His power is now something I do regularly instead of occasionally. Realizing the impact the cross has on my life, I want to honor the Lord with thankfulness as soon as my eyes pop open and at day’s end as I drift off to sleep. Holy bookends supporting my day.
Cindi Wood is author of LifeWay’s bestselling Frazzled Female books and her newest release Desperate. She is sought after as a speaker and Bible teacher, guiding women to deal with daily stress by experiencing a practical and deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
This article originally appeared in the April, 2012 issue of Home Life. Subscribe