This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up, as well. My mind is too weak. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

Never Apart

bible-1031288_1920The Word was once just a book.

It contained truth and knowledge.

It told me how to live and love.

It was something to study and put to practice.

And it was good.

But that all changed.

The words began to stir and come to life.

One by one they sharpened.

One by one they pierced my soul.

No longer did I want to depict the world’s eye view of it.

I saw the significance of the Law.

I saw the significance of the Gospel.

I saw how they can never be torn apart.

Because one without the other is simply not enough.

You can be doing it all right and still be wrong.

It is only with Him, not on our own, that we realize…

The Word shows His love.

It is grace bestowed upon us through His blood.

Without it, there is no salvation.

Without it, there is no freedom.

It is what opens our hearts to the law and changes us from within.

See, the Gospel without the Law is just a pile of words.

You or me without both are just a pile of flesh and bones.

It is the Law together with the Gospel that sets us apart from the world.

It is both.

Baa Baa Booyah

I want to start out by saying I am no sheep expert. Not even close. The most I know about sheep is what I have read in the bible, been taught in Sunday School as a child, or have heard in sermons. They have no sense of direction. They don’t like being alone. If they fall and get in a certain position they can’t get out of it. We’ve heard the stories of sheep wandering, not being able to find water, or whatever else. We are told they are not the most intelligent animals. Then, we are compared to these animals right after we are told how dumb they are.

Hmmm, I don’t think God sees us as dumb or wants us to look at ourselves as such.

I mean I get it. We are sinners. We screw up.  We can do dumb things. We are human. There is a certain sense of humility admitting these things.  So, naturally we say we are dumb like sheep. Maybe we are wrong to say this. Maybe calling sheep dumb stems from worldly thinking. What the world sees as wise and strong is not the same as what the bible tells us is such. Maybe sheep aren’t so dumb after all.

Think about this:

  1. Sheep know and follow their shepherds voice. They know it is better to follow their shepherd than to be in control of their own life. Don’t we all struggle with submitting to His will?
  2. Sheep know it is better to stay with their flock.  Yes, sometimes they get lost (don’t we all.) The point being is wandering away from the church, the body of believers, usually doesn’t turn out so well. This isn’t saying we shouldn’t be around people who don’t have faith. We need to love all people.
  3. Sheep have four stomachs.  Totally unrelated but crazy, huh?
  4. Sheep know their weaknesses. Come on, if we all admitted our weaknesses and allowed God and others to lead us in places where we falter…whoa…we could accomplish so much more.

See where I am going with this?  It takes a wise person to know following our Shepherd is the best way to live. Without a doubt, the wisest people I have known in my life were the ones who followed Him faithfully. Times when they got lost, they allowed our Shepherd to carry them on His shoulder to go back to the flock.  Ultimately they knew how dumb they were being when they lost their sheeplike (humble) attitude. I don’t know about you, but I see sheep a little differently now. What a blessing it is to be a sheep. Baa baa booyah!

 

Death

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I’m dying.

The air doesn’t fill my lungs,

as it did in the past.

My body aches.

Every step I take is slower.

I hear a voice.

I reach out.

All I feel is empty space.

Empty promises.

I close my eyes and pray.

His Word fills the emptiness.

I let out my last breath.

I am free.

New air fills my lungs.

The pain is gone.

My path is clear.

My steps are boundless.

This truth is where,

my peace is found.

I no longer live,

it is He who lives in me.

Through the power,

through His endless love.

I am brought back to life,

time and time again.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
-Galatians 2:20

No record

cross_jesus_woodTrue forgiveness starts from within.  It starts from within oneself and works its way out. If we wait for what we think the other side should or shouldn’t do that is not forgiveness.

We are to forgive others as He forgives us.

Christ’s blood poured out of His body before we were even born. Yet it is still powerful enough to continuously cover us for the sins of yesterday, today, and the days to come. Despite what we do, His blood keeps no record.

We must forgive, despite what we feel the other person is or is not doing. Why? Because Christ did and still does the same for us. We have no way of knowing what God is doing in someone else’s heart. We have no idea the layers one is fighting to tear down. Remember, we cannot control anyone else’s heart, only our own.

Satan wants us to see what is lacking in the other. When we focus on such, Satan wins. The best we can do is to try to keep the plank out of our own eyes and love others. True forgiveness and true love always go hand in hand.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

 No record.  

What if we are known by…

IMG_0134Here it goes…

We may not understand why things happen. We may think things aren’t fair. We compare our lives to others and think we deserve what the other has or even more than what they have. We like to think of ourselves as good and we like to think our way of thinking makes the most sense.

We get disappointed in others and play the ‘what if’ game.  What if I was raised in a nicer neighborhood?  What if my parents were nicer to me?  What if I had sisters instead of a brothers? What if my parents took me to church as a child? What if…?

What if we stopped? What if we actually began to realize God places us where we need to be?  I know there are many people out there that loathe the “everything happens for a reason” response to life.  I have felt this way as well.  Because, let’s face it, life can completely suck at times. Some people coast through life and others don’t.  The problem is––we begin to lose our trust in His perfect plan when we stop believing God has us where He needs us.

Maybe that is what Satan wants.  He wants us to believe we are greater than others and when bad things happen it isn’t fair.  (Let the arm crossing and stomping and slamming doors commence.)  I cannot recall anywhere in the bible where it says life is supposed to be fair.  There is sin in this world. Life will never be fair. I know I sound insensitive. But, think of it this way. How fair was it when Christ died on the cross for every bad thing you ever have or will do?  He was without sin.  Think of all the sins you commit in one day because you justify them.  You think it is okay because you are having a rough day or week or year.

Trust me, I am preaching to myself as well here.

We need to stop thinking we are so great.  We need to stop believing life owes us more than what it can give us.  We need to rise up and humble ourselves.  We need to fully trust God.  We somehow think we can be of this world when it suits us.  As a result, our fruit is withering.

How do we expect to bring others to Christ when we are living just like them? None of this has anything to do with earning salvation.  None of this has anything to do with being better than others. We can’t earn anything and we are no better than others.  But we can be more fruitful if we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. Have Christians become lazy?  Do we think since we have salvation through the blood that we can do as we please? I am just so very frustrated.  I know there is more we can be doing.

God gave us all beautifully unique gifts.  We need to be thankful for these gifts and use them.  We need to open our bible no matter how busy and unfair life becomes.  Faith is more than a Sunday morning thing.  It is more than an hour of your time during bible study.  Those things are still important, of course, because they are there to prepare us to share the good news.  Sharing the good news is the point, right?

We all know that sharing the good news is more than the words we speak. Again this may not be fair…but…people are watching you because you are a christian.  When they see you living like everyone else they become desensitized to the importance of Christ’s blood. Let us show them the way by the fruit we bear.  Aaah, just imagine all we could do.

So I ask, what are you known by?

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

~Matthew 7:16-20

 

The Light in the Darkness

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Last night my nephew stayed the night.  We let the boys stay up a bit past their bedtimes so we can catch lightening bugs.  As they were running around, I realized it had been a while since I had been outside in the dark. With young kids we cling to the light––we close up shop for the day. Oh my, it was a beautiful night and I was in awe of the dark cloudy sky. A much needed light glimmered through and around me.

I walked around our yard and watched the boys.  I remembered the joys of my own childhood. I pictured my young self standing still and waiting for the small flickering of light. I felt the sneaking up, the holding up of one palm, and then the taking of the other hand to quickly trap the lightening bug. My favorite part was the release. Sometimes they would immediately fly off and other times they would linger for a few seconds.  I would not move until I once again saw their flickering of light in the darkness. Then I was off to find the next flickering of light. I never had any doubt that I would find another.

I began to think of the pain in this world, of the darkness the pain brings. The sun always goes down and the darkness always finds its way. My natural instinct as a parent is to wrap my arms around my kids and pull them close to me.  I want to cover their eyes and shield them from the darkness of this world. I love my children and want to protect them. I can’t though.

Instead of always trying to shield them, I need to show them how to stand in the darkness by always looking to God. One day they will have to stand in the darkness and I will not be able to shield them. I will not be able to shield them. (I have to say it once more.) I will not be able to shield them. What I can do is continue to equip them by:

  • Teaching them the Word.
  • Praying with them
  • Praying for them.
  • Leading by example.  
  • Pointing out the light in the darkness, even if it is just a flicker.  
  • Being their light when I can.
  • Allowing them to be my light when they can.  
  • Trusting God and God’s path for them.
  • Praising, loving, and striving to be more like Christ with them…the only unwavering light in this dark world.