Sunday, December 30, 2012
This year a couple of friends and family members have given me monetary gifts for no particular reason than to show an act of love. Of course my first response was to gladly accept, and then say thank you. I enjoyed having the extra money. I did not question why it was given to me, I simply enjoyed and appreciated it. The unexpected and undeserved gifts made me want to bless others in a similar way . As I though upon this, it became clear to me what I needed to write about to each of you. If I had to describe the year 2012 in spiritual terms for me personally, then I would entitle it grace rediscovered. Here's what I mean… Intellectually I know that the word grace means unmerited or undeserved favor. In spiritual terms, I know that it means the unmerited or undeserved favor of God toward man. To be honest though, f when I heard the term grace, all I could think of was the word undeserved. In the course of my life thus far in 29 years I must've heard at least a 1000+ sermons on the subject of grace. I shamefully admit that I would find myself cringing at the topic from time to time, because in my mind that was code for hearing a sermon on how unworthy or undeserving I was, and I honestly needed no help in the self loathing department . This wasn't actually how grace was presented to me , but most often it was the way I interpreted it. It wasn't actually until this year, that I began looking at grace differently. You see I was so focused on my unworthiness and no goodness. I struggled about how how undeserving I am of God's gift, not only at salvation, but also of a relationship with him, that somewhere I missed or forgot the joy and victory that comes with having God's favor through Christ. We hear often times that so much of life is about balance the same is true of our faith. When I exalt total depravity above that of God's favor and kindness, then I am left with little joy or peace. Likewise, when I focus only on God's kindness without regard for his holiness, then I missed the awe and wonder of who God is. Grace has always been a difficult concept for me to grasp at least on the heart level, but even shots of it glimpses have made a different for me over the last few months. I don't so much fear God punishing me when I do something wrong. I find it easier to not assume that when something goes wrong it's my fault. I guess that's what happens when grace starts to become real, as opposed to a theological concept passed down from one generation to the next. If I've learned anything and continue to learn anything, it is that knowing grace and experiencing it, are not one in the same. Was I a Christian before my rediscovery of grace yes. However, it is in those times when I am not experiencing or living in light of grace, that I am the most miserable unhappy Christian on the planet. I don't believe that I'm the only Christian out there, who found herself intellectually believing a message, that she was not tangibly and personally experiencing on a daily basis. This all began for me when I was challenged to answer the question what is God's heart toward me. After much searching and inner turmoil this year, I find myself going back to the simplicity of childlike faith found in John 3: 16 ""for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him shall have everlasting life"" God is love, and his love motivated his plan to reconcile you and me to himself Romans 5:8. One of the misconceptions I have had about grace is that it mostly applied only to the gift of salvation with regards to eternal life. Yes, this in itself is more than we could ever deserve to or hope for, but it isn't wrong to want to experience a portion of fullness in the Christian life now. John 10:10 Jesus said, "" I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly. Paraphrase emphasis mine. What is going to make a lost person want what a Christian has, when a Christian doesn't even know what they have, beyond eternal life, or at least is not living in the reality of grace? It will no doubt be a lifelong and perhaps an eternity long process, for me to embrace experiencing grace, but I want it desperately personally and intimately. I need it like I need air I don't want it just for me, I want for the 80-year-old lady who has been in church her whole life. I want it for the girl who finds herself pregnant, and feels that no one will give her a second thought. I want it for the Christians who like me, have felt as though they are missing something essential to their faith. I want it for the minister, who has forced himself to be satisfied with a conversion record and has little expectation beyond that. I want it for the person who has never come to Christ, and who wonders if grace is a fantasy.. I issue myself a challenge, and I extended to you as well. Let us ask God to make his grace a tangible reality in our lives! Join me in prayer for God's grace to sustain us and flow through us in 2013. Are you you ready to open and reopen our gift?