Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bold Approach

Grace. I always want it given to me, but am not always so eager to give grace to others.

Read: Ephesians 1:3-8

Re-write this verse in your own words in a way that explains what it says to you.

Have you ever been driving along and some other driver does something like cut you off or linger too long when the light changes from red to green? Do you just get so aggrevated at the other driver that you holler out something like, "C'mon!" or "Idiot!" wishing he or she could hear you from their car because your window is still up and you're just a little too cowardly to actually holler it to their face? Have you ever made a thoughtless comment that you wish you could suck back out of the air and stick back down your throat? Or, have you ever made a comment as a deliberate attempt to take a little jab at someone? Nothing too bad, really, you don't necessarily want to hurt them, you just definitely want to let them know that you noticed their behavior and you're not happy with their actions at the moment.

Truth is, I have been the culprit in all of these situations. I've also been the one on the receiving end. I've been yelled at and flipped off for being less than perfectly attentive behind the wheel. I've been on the receiving end of the little jabs and thoughtless comments. When found in either situation, oh, how I want others to extend some grace to me.

We buy two lottery tickets each week. (I know what you're thinking! Spare me the lecture and instead extend grace to me and John for our gambling habit.) Seriously, though, somebody always wins. About every few weeks someone's numbers came up in the lottery (just like for Babette) and their lives are changed forever. Somebody always wins -- it may as well be us. Anyway, we buy two lottery tickets each week, one for Wednesday's drawing and one for Saturday's drawing, and we would really like to win. In fact, we pray for God to let us win. But, here's the thing. John and I had a moment of severe truth a while back. We were stopped at a stoplight and just as we were ready to make our entrance onto Loop 250 a little old veteran who stands on the median every Sunday (all day) selling Sunday papers made a sale to the driver ahead of us. The sale didn't end soon enough and the light turned green and we were left waiting at a green light behind the driver buying his paper. Well, neither one of us was happy about not being able to immediately move forward into the intersection to make our turn and we made some noise about it to each other in the car. A few minutes later as we were finally speeding comfortably on the Loop, he said to me with disgust, "I ask God to let me win the lottery and I can't even show grace to this man who is just trying to make a living by selling Sunday papers." We withheld grace. We both looked at each other. You know that moment when you realize just how loathsome you can really be? That was one of those moments for both of us. Believe me when I say we've had lots of those moments in our lives. I wish I could get this grace thing down. But, I fear it will take the rest of my life and probably my life hereafter.

Grace is getting something that we do not deserve. It is God's favor. Grace is ongoing. There is no end to God's grace. The proof of that is in our salvation. No matter what I do in this life I have salvation through my faith in Jesus Christ. God just keeps holding it out to me. I never have to ask for His grace, He just gives it. Grace cannot be taken -- it can only be given.

In the verses that I asked you to read, what do you see? I see a God who, because of His gracious nature, gives blessing after blessing. I read how He already knew me and chose me before time began. He planned on me being here at this particular time in history. He planned on it. He didn't have to stop and realize it when my mom became pregnant with me and then begin planning for me. That's how we do it--that's not how God does it. He was planning on my arrival before time began. I read how it's His pleasure to have me as a part of His life and family; and, my destiny is to live into it. And, all of this just to show how gracious He is -- not for any other reason but to show us He is a God of grace. He doesn't do all of this to get our obedience or to earn our love. He does it to show us that He, the One true living God, is a God of grace! No cost to us at all! I also read that in God's own wisdom and understanding (He knows what He's doing--He isn't going to re-think it one day) He thought it worth His Son's life to redeem me because that's just how rich in grace He is! Unfathomable!

Re-read Ephesians 1:3-8 and wherever it has the word "us" change it to "me." Wherever it has the word "sons" change it to "child." Wherever it has the word "we" change it to "I." Go ahead and make it personal!

God knows how loathsome I am. He knows every time that I willingly withhold grace to another. He knows every time. I cannot hide it from Him. He, however, never withholds grace from me. Although I am changing and I do see signs of growth in the area of grace-giving, the truth is, no matter how good I get at extending grace to people, I still do not deserve God's favor. For this very reason, when I go to Him in prayer, I always say (as a way of reminding myself), "Father, I come to you the ONLY way that I can: through the blood of my Savior, Your Son, Jesus." That is how we boldly approach the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way , just as we are -- yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Because He came and walked through this life conquering FOR ME all the sins that I can't seem to conquer, I can walk right up to his comfortable, approachable throne, settle in with Him and I can tell Him how angry I got at the driver in front of me or how I think I may have hurt that person at church by my careless words. I also tell Him how hurt I was by so and so's thoughtless comment and He says to me, "Daughter, my forgiveness goes on and on. I have forgiven you much because I love you." In that moment, nothing else needs to be said. Because I am keenly aware of how much God has forgiven me, I am compelled to give grace at a moment's notice. At least for a time.

His grace is sufficient!

Cake you so much!

Today's quote: "Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it and I am one of those people. I think back to who I was -- resentful, wound tight with anger, a single hardened link in a long chain of ungrace learned from family and church. Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know, more surely than I know anything, that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God. I yearn for the church to become a nourishing culture of grace."
Philip Yancey, "Wha't So Amazing About Grace"

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