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I have a small earthquake happening in my life right now. It is something of a paradigm shift that is taking place for me and it definitely affects the way I live out my faith. I wouldn’t have even understood the need for this change if I hadn’t had the Event. It showed me the many places where my life wasn’t working. I realized in a new way, that working harder as a Christian was not the solution to my problem, but I wasn’t really certain what the full solution was!
When helping others, I had much more clarity, and I knew the truth, but the belief that GOD wasn’t disgusted with me and my repeated failures? That was another story! I couldn’t quite believe that for myself. After all, look at all the trouble He went to for me. He even died to bring about my salvation and I just couldn’t seem to live up to the expectations I thought He had for me on a functional level at all!
Our Fall study at church has been life-changing! It’s not so much new information, but a reworking of information I already knew.
Fast forward to this Fall. A group of women in our church is going through a study titled: idolAddiction by Julie Sparkman of Restore Ministries in Birmingham, AL. We are looking at our idols, but mostly at the gospel and Jesus: who He is and what He offers us. Rather than being an academic exercise, it is as down-to-earth as they come! It includes such things as a definition of the gospel, repentance, etc. How often do you hear those words tossed around and have no idea what they actually mean? Yes, me too!
Each week, I realize more and more how this applies to my everyday life…and especially so as I am involved to some degree as a caretaker.
How often are my prayers asking GOD to reinforce my idols of personal peace, prosperity and the desire to have a family that is happy and at peace with each other? But are those GOD’s goals for them? Does He want peace at the expense of dealing with true issues of reconciliation that are needed? Does He want prosperity at the expense of love and care for the weak, poor, and the disenfranchised? These don’t have to go with each other, but you can see how superficial and self-serving our prayers can be.
We often find ourselves working to “help GOD” reach the goal we want. But they may not be the same goals He has for either us or our loved ones. How He plans to mature the people we love rarely looks the way we want it to look. How many times has your adult child gone through difficulty and come through it with a deeper dependence on GOD because of it? Or maybe you intervened to cushion their pain and were disappointed that they didn’t learn to depend more on GOD? There was a reason for that!
What does a lifestyle of grace really mean?
I learned a helpful distinction between grace and mercy this week. Mercy is withholding punishment that is deserved. Grace is not only withholding the punishment that is deserved but giving a blessing in addition, a totally undeserved one.Grace is not only withholding the punishment that is deserved, but giving a blessing in addition. Click To Tweet
Grace seems like such a sweet, wonderful thing to have. But as we were discussing it in our leaders’ group, one of our pastors reminded us that in order to receive grace, there has to be death somewhere in the process! WOW! In the case of our salvation, it was an actual physical death, but how often, in the case of reconciliation, for example, is it the death of my preference, a desire or dream, or the death of revenge and retribution?In order to receive grace, there has to be death somewhere in the process! Click To Tweet
In the case of reconciliation, someone has been truly hurt and offended. It isn’t something where it is minor and you didn’t like the color or style of someone’s dress. It means you were deeply and often appropriately hurt. The offense may have happened repeatedly and maybe was even done on purpose. In order to be reconciled, you will need to die to the desire to hold that against them or exact revenge. It is no small thing to talk about being reconciled. The price of reconciliation is high. If it weren’t, it would happen more often and easily.
Our church seeks to be a place where people will experience and express grace. I always thought that the experiencing of grace at our church was supposed to be a very positive thing…and it is for the most part. But when it comes to personal preferences of wanting something done a certain way, sometimes it does involve death. That is the part of grace that is “in the fine print.” We don’t like to talk about that part. Not everything in a church of about 500, can be done according to each person’s personal preference. Sometimes, we have to die to our own personal preferences. Other times, not so much. But death is all part of grace. I die to my personal preference to serve you…and to make this a place you will feel loved and comfortable.
As we define grace more thoroughly in our minds, it is helpful to know what we are talking about. We aren’t talking about something that is light and fluffy. Grace is costly and expensive. It often costs one person in the relationship more than the other, yet if they are counting, it isn’t real grace.
(to be continued)
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life…