Falling from grace, It may not be what you think…

“You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

I remember when I first began to believe the Good News.  It’s hard to describe the feelings, the changes I went through, and how my life began to be transformed on the deepest levels.  To even try to put my experience into words seems to diminish the power of those early encounters with the grace, love, and truth of God.  I’ll trust, however, that it won’t.

The first thing I remember, sitting in that warehouse church, was what could seem to be two opposing feelings.  As someone who didn’t believe in God, but desperately wanted to, I was not unfamiliar with the feeling of emptiness– of this realization that I needed something more than myself.  But that day in the dimly lit building, there was a difference.  The need for God that I had  felt before, it was still there.  This time, though, what I was lacking before– seemed to suddenly ignite in me the smallest ember.  Faith.   Where was this new kindling coming from?  I had always wanted to believe, and couldn’t– why now?  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) As I look back on that day, one of the strongest differences I remember was that, for the first time in my life, it felt like to allow myself to believe in this God and His Son Jesus Christ might be the wisest decision I could make.  There was a sense that, although I knew something was going to have to be done about all this sin and darkness in me, that somehow, He might be big enough to take care of it.  That, maybe it really is good news.

Like many others who have walked the path before and beside me, and by the grace of God, will come behind me, that was the beginning of the craziest journey I’ve ever started.  I’ll spare you the details of my early days of “being on fire”, to “walking through the desert”– wondering where or why that strong Presence that seemed almost tangible had suddenly disappeared, to learning that this whole thing is a process– more like a marathon than a sprint.

What I do want to talk about is Grace.  And Trust.  And how every. single. good and perfect thing originates with God.  I don’t know about you, but for me, this topic of grace?  It’s been a bit controversial– which shows there’s a lack of understanding what exactly it is.  Some folks get afraid when you just say the word…”grace”;  Their faces get red and their jaw tightens as they think, “oh boy, it’s one of those ‘greasy grace’ people, thinking they can just use God’s grace as a licence to do what they want.  Lord, help me to teach them the truth.”  I use the term “afraid” because I think that’s exactly what it is.  I think many of us are more afraid of clinging to grace than falling from grace.   This may sound weird, and I don’t think it is intentional on our part, but I think it needs to be addressed with truth so the liar can’t deceive us.
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4) Paul is telling the churches in Galatia that it is through trying to be right with God (justified) by the law that would make them fall from grace. It was a matter of what they believed in their hearts! As if to say, “Don’t you know Jesus came and made right with God all who would believe Him?!  There’s nothing left to do except know Him more and more and keep walking with Him through grace!” Based on my study of the Scriptures, I think one of the main things God wants us to keep at the forefront of our understanding is our complete dependence on and the total, provided sufficiency offered in Christ. “We love because He first loved us.”(1 John 4:19) At whatever point we are depending on ourselves for sufficiency, righteousness, right standing with God, justification, healing, salvation, anything…. we are proclaiming an area in our life which we do not need Christ to come in and do what ONLY He can.

We know all the Scriptures that tell us that when Christ saves us, it is ALL about believing that it is only by grace that we are saved.

Let’s pause there, read that again.

And, we know, that even after God initiates the relationship, it continues to be His grace that grows, sustains, transforms, renews, and makes us more like Jesus.  If you don’t know this, just do a word search on the word “grace” and you will soon find that everything good continues to originate and grow from Him. Or, do a word search on “righteousness” to see how we get it. This is just one of the many reasons that God rightfully gets ALL the glory.

Beloved, I believe God is so concerned with us having the Truth in our hearts in this area so much. I believe He wants us walking in freedom (Gal. 5)! In confidence in His love!(1John 4:18) Being vessels that really show that the power is FROM HIM! (2 Cor. 4:7) A people who are ever-believing that there is yet EVEN MORE love to be experienced and explored! (Eph. 3:18, 1 Peter 2:2-3) He wants it known that He. Is. God. ~worthy of praise and with love that endures forever. (psalm 100) And for our hearts to be depending on and clinging to the ALL-SUFFICIENT sacrifice He promised He is. For it is is Christ and Christ alone from Whom comes all Truth and Grace. When these out-of-this-world truths begin to take root in our hearts, we are compelled to worship. To worship with abandon, gratitude, and the humility that acknowledges Who He is and who we are. We are compelled to know this God more.  “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”(2 Cor. 5:14-15)   Praise and glory to God.  This God “from whom all blessings flow!!”  Taste and see that He. is. Good. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

Indeed, Body of Christ, cling to grace.

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The Really Best Birthday Gift

She’s turning 10 today.  This amazing girl whose name means “grace”.  For weeks, we’ve schemed and planned, looked for “perfect” gifts.  But….

There’s this knowing inside of me that knows the gifts themselves won’t bring lasting satisfaction.  Because they’re not intended for that.

She’s thanked us for the presents and…

I’m thinking, there’s one more gift I really want to give her, to help her see, so that she’ll know the secret that doesn’t have to be hidden…  That it’s gratitude that keeps on helping us see all of God’s gifts.

She numbers her index card and counts the gifts…

She’d already forgotten some of them, just like me.  Forgetting what great grace I’ve been given, until I name it, write it down, and this smile just slips on.  Thanking Him for exactly what is, how it is, Who He is, who He’s made me– not this shell, but my “in-Christ-ness”.  Being present in the present with the Presence is the present!  This depth of treasure that is available to all who see the the Gift. It’s Him!  Grace Himself, the One who satisfies the hungry and thirsty, and keeps on satisfying, and keeps on giving more and more grace, because…”He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

And, it was right there on my daily verse this morning, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

When mountains move

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

A friend of mine recently wrote a great blog about a similiar passage I thought was worth sharing, you can find it here http://weaklyexperience.blogspot.com/2012/08/fig-trees-and-mountains.html

I was thinking about these ‘moving mountains’ today, too.  About how the ego in us wants to be involved even in being the “best” Christian, the spiritual giant of our time.  Then, I was thinking how Jesus always seemed to be pointing us to be doing the secret, almost imperceivable things to be great in His kingdom.  I wondered, how can our faith moving a mountain not get us some kind of spiritual clout?!  What does moving massive boulders have to do with loving others?

Here are some thoughts:

Perhaps, it has to do with the prayer of faith that literally changes the atmosphere.  That that which was once an immovable obstacle to a fellow sojourner has disappeared as we join our faith with the heart and will of God.  That, when we trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, acknowledge Him in all our ways, He makes our paths straight.

That, when we strengthen ourselves in the Lord, we “make level paths for our feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed.” Heb. 12:12-13

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God..” Hebrews 12:15a

What do you think?

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded…

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24

I have not arrived, but that’s not the point

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Phillipians 3:12~16

Looking for God (#2091 and 2092 on my gratitude list)

I was looking for Him.  Wondering how in the world I would find Him in washing the bedding, vacuuming the floors, mothering so messily.  I knew He was here, He is “I Am”.  So, it must be possible to find Him.  I prayed silently for godly order in us as I put things in their places.  Thought of God’s patience and unfathomable love toward us as I pondered how many times I’ve washed the same garments, only to have them get dirty and need the washing again.  I thanked Him that He knew I’d need the continual washing to be of any use.  Thanked Him that He wasn’t surprised.  That He had a process for these sorts of things.  I prayed for the people who wore the clothes and played with the toys I put away.  I wondered how much passion could be put into laundry, and school, and…anything.

As I enfolded the mattress with the sheet corner, I saw a 3×5 card.  It was one of the eight we made that Beth Moore encouraged us to write as she led us through a study of Queen Esther.  We learned about some of the specific challenges God’s women might face, and how God could be the One to hold them.

On one side it said, “It’s tough being a woman who can balance passion with patience.”

The corresponding scripture on the other side was where I found Him, (#2091 on the gratitude list), “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

#2092- the folks who stopped to buy cold coffee from the 9 year old entrepeneur daughter in the wet grass with the rabbit cage table, and even gave a tip!  It made it all worth it for her!

Open Up

Could they see right through these holes in me?  Is that why they came to give?  Called to ask and bless?  Made all my questions retreat like defeated foes.

All day long I fought with those questions.  Tried hard counting blessings to remember what counts.  Struggled hard to find God in my work.  To find my work.

He came home ready to bless and confused the Accuser and the accused.

I protested, feeling unworthy.  Who affirms the soul’s work?

I saw the pain in his eyes when I refused the gift.  Refused to let him be the blessing.

Stop.  Refuse this gift and refuse grace.  Choose to block the waters, to stop the flow.

Open up.  Unclench the fists, the heart.

There.

There we are now…all open wide, yes, blessing and being blessed.  No longer knowing who is giving and who is receiving.  Acknowledging God, right here, His gifts in and through us.

 

Soul more full, water faucet flows, and so does grace.  I hum a happy tune, cleaning dinner dishes, thankful again for my work, though still not all sure what it is.  The phone rings and it’s the friend we celebrate with on the birth of first son, four days old now.  I smile wide, because they let me share in this celebration, taking time to call with updates.  Time doesn’t really exist for them right now.  I laugh and listen to the adventures they’re having.  They’re well, joyful, and thankful.  But, they’ve called with a question.

I’m glad, anxious to hear.  I’d been hoping I could serve some way.  Hoping to be the blessing.

“Will you and Jason be the godparents?” 

Time has stopped for me too, now. 

 The water is still flowing.  My eyes are wide and I laugh a real, happy joy.

“Yes! yes!”

I don’t know what all my work is, but godbabies need praying women and God-seekers.  This I will do.

What is real?

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Some of my most cherished times are those when I am reminded so intimately of the grandeur of Himself, His plan.  Though, of course, I don’t know the details of all He has in store- but the bigness of it all.  And this God, who makes me sway and hug tight in His Perfect Father arms, makes me awe and coo, enables me to laugh in strong arms.

Who can laugh with peace?  In these days of all too serious.  To laugh, it would seem, would be to deny reality.

Those who laugh with peace.  Who are they?  Those blinded idealists?  Those blissfully ignorant of pain? I have been the cynic.  But who hasn’t seen it here?  Who could hide?

To laugh with peace there must be a reality- by nature, the only one- that is secure, safe, perfect.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

It is not a denial of the real suffering we find here.  Perhaps, an acknowledgement that it is temporary, though.  The agreement of something eternal.  The clinging of the eternal Spirit emerging from the earthen temple, crying, “King of Hope!  God of Joy!”  Is that where this peculiar, holy hope, peace, joy, faithfulness and love begin?

It is only the working of evil forces, rotting flesh playing illusion that make this Spirit-fruit look boring, mundane, unnecessary.  Isn’t Spirit-fruit  the very sustenance for the nations, multiplying?  Joy-smiles ripple effect like salt waves.  Internal peace spills Christ proclamations, stars in black night.  Patience kneels, damming up the waters roaring, enduring until the time is right, water subsides.  Goodness quiet shouts!  Of right, wrong, the Truth, the Way, the Life.  True humility ignites hope when kings and kingdoms are all left with the same lot as the poor and needy: only a question.  The Messianic question:  “Did you receive My Love?  My Grace? Me?”

What is real is what will remain.