Grace in the Dark

graceBut you are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You were chosen to tell about the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced oppressing or frightening darkness?
  • How has darkness intrigued you in a situation? How has darkness frightened you?
  • What is a shadowy area of your life that needs God’s grace?

Receive It. Grace meets us in the darkness, which can be a frightening place. The night-time can be beautiful, but most of its beauty comes from the results of a light source. We see the aura of the moon or the twinkling of the starts; we see the patterns of glistening light as the moon shines catches water drops or fluttering leaves. Most of us don’t live somewhere that is void of light. Even if we close ourselves into a dark room, it’s difficult to shut out all light sources, and if we do, as we sit in pitch blackness, we see, with any certainty…nothing. Spiritually, when we’re in the dark, we are disoriented. What we think we see isn’t accurate. The darkness can seem oppressive. We can even get to the point where there is something comforting in the darkness, because we don’t have to deal with what’s in the light. We can begin to fear the reality of the light more than the uncertainty of the dark. Once we find comfort in where we are, we don’t want to leave even though we cannot fully see, live, or move in the dark. That’s where grace meets us if we’re willing to reach out. We don’t need to see what we’re reaching for; we simply have to know to whom we’re reaching. When we call out to God, no matter what is going on in our lives, God hears us and meets us. He often doesn’t immediately or completely rescue and restore us. Restoration is a process that includes preparation for what’s to come. We need steps in order to experience and appreciate how God reveals himself to us. We need his timing, not our preferences. And we always need his grace no matter where we are. As long as we live on earth, there will be areas—whether large gaps or tiny spaces—that are dark. God reaches into the dark, shadowy spaces and sprinkles his grace. And we’re able to see what he wants us to see…if we’re willing to fully open our eyes and hearts.

Live It. Find a dark space. Close your eyes, trying to shut out all light for a full minute. Before opening your eyes, ask God to call attention to the dark places in your life, then respond by inviting his grace to consume those spaces.

Benefit of the Doubt

benefit-of-the-doubtYou don’t have to give someone the benefit of the doubt. You can be absolutely certain about a particular impression or characteristic of someone. You don’t have to overlook and ignore it. But you can still be gracious in your interactions, even in your confrontation.

I often hear people say they just can’t interact with someone because of his or her beliefs. Because of who someone voted for, what someone supports, what someone believes, or sometimes it’s even a personality trait. They simply cannot accept anything from that person because of the vast differences.

Why?

Because each of us can rest assured we’re on that “other side” for someone else. How do we want to be considered? How do we want to be treated? Would we like others to truly listen to us with some respect, even if the other person doesn’t end up changing his or her mind and agreeing with us?

Maybe it’s not so much about the agreement on the outcome as the agreement to pursue the process. We might doubt an idea without much of a cost, but how expensive is it to dismiss someone, refusing graciousness?

Sometimes I Need a Visual

42b7f3e7b4107dcaf70bf8078a35b744Sometimes I need to “see” my faith, just to catch a glimpse of something my heart is inextricably wrapped around, although my mind often can’t wrap completely wrap around it.

That’s part of faith. Being certain about the uncertain…and being willing to be uncertain at times. Yes, I know “Those who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29). And that is me some of the time, but that’s not me all of the time. I’m on a journey of faith.

The visuals I sometimes get while reading through Scripture are rarely much about me. Instead, God lets me glimpse Him: His character, willingness, love, and mercy.

He reached down from heaven
and took hold of me;
He pulled me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too strong for me. (Psalm 18:16-17)

God reaches to me. He takes hold of me. He pulls me and rescues me.

He interacts with me. He’s invested in me. And for that, I am grateful.

Learning for a Lifetime

We learn some stuff along our journey that changes what we think and what we’re willing to do.

We might be hesitant to get married because we watched our parents go through messy divorces.

We might be hesitant to take a certain kind of job because we saw family members consumed by or betrayed in them.

We might be hesitant to authentically search faith because we’ve been taught something we didn’t understand or like at the time, or we’ve seen faith expressed in some ugly ways.

indexWe let the stuff we learn change the way we look at something, but are we willing to continually learn even newer stuff that might change us yet again? We welcomed and assimilated a contradiction before, but are willing to do so again? Are we committed to being corrected and leaning into truth, even when it puts a question mark on something we thought was firmly followed by an exclamation point? How certain are we, and how willing are we willing to slide our certainties under a microscope and watch for potential growth and change?

Just because we learned once doesn’t mean we’re willing to continue to learn. That takes commitment and humility. Are you willing?

Gullible Know-It-All

As we walked through the ruins of Bethsaida, we paused near the palace.

11.3.14 Bethsaida palace (2)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

Use your imagination. I know it looks nothing like a palace. The footprint of the remains are larger than this photo. Plus, palace by today standards and palace by “then” standards aren’t necessarily the same.

Anyway, right next to these remains is a much smaller foundation of remains labeled “Fisherman’s House.” I have to admit I would never have thought about this without our guide pointing it out: Was it feasible that this was actually the fisherman’s house? Why would the fisherman, someone who wouldn’t have had a high position in the community, live next to the palace?  Do we just want there to be a fisherman’s house at Bethsaida, since the disciples Andrew and Simon Peter were fisherman from Bethsaida (John 1:44)?

I looked online (as if finding information online proves the truth) and found a possible answer. The remains are from different periods of time. The Fisherman’s House is from the Roman period, and the palace is from the Iron Age.

Well, that makes sense.

But is it correct?

It’s funny how gullible we can be to believe something and then become adamant about its absolute truth because we read it on a sign, heard it from a “reliable” source, or saw it (in our Facebook feed?). We think we know it all, but we haven’t stopped to really think through it. We haven’t gathered any perspectives except what supports our own. We refuse to explore additional possibilities. Our know-it-all claims make us vulnerable to pass up important information and absorb distorted truths.

I don’t know whether or not those stacks of stones are a fisherman’s house, palace, or something completely different. I could get my degree in archeology and research it with a lot more insight, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, I think I’ll just admit I’m not sure and take away the lesson that I need to ask good questions, pay attention to my sources, and be humble in what I think I know.

I don’t need to know it all. But I always need to be willing to learn.

Time to Move

you-are-stuck-141When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?”

The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.”

Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk. John 5:6-9

We can sit right beside the source of our healing or growth and not access it. We might think we can’t. We focus on the limits instead of the possibilities. The man beside the water had an excellent location for healing but was still sick. He didn’t know how to access healing. He thought his limitations would stop him from accessing the water and healing. Then he encountered Jesus, who has no limits.

God doesn’t exist within our limits. To him, all things are possible, but all things aren’t probable. He is not limited, but he has limits because he sets them himself. He will not do everything even though he can because he knows the best choice and timing for every situation and person. Our unlimited God responds within the limits of what is pure, true and noble. He will never do anything outside of his character. Of that we can be certain.

When have you let perceived limits stop you or hold you back?

When has God shown you a limit that led to growth?

We don’t always get our way. It’s a good thing, because we’d be spoiled brats. God sometimes allows us to get a taste or glimpse of what we think we want. We can do this his way or choose our own way…and eventually get back to his way because we (hopefully) realize our way was inferior from the beginning. His way is best. He knows the best limits to set although the possibilities for him are limitless.

Live It. Jot a list of every area in which you currently feel limited. Cross off anything on the list over which you believe God has no control. Circle everything else, and spend time in prayer, intentionally giving each one to God, trusting him to set the best limits for you in each area. Step out in faith, trusting his timing and provision.

Solid Foundation

wood-fired-bowl-kintsugi-repair
Kintsugi bowl by http://www.lakesidepottery.com

You built the earth on its foundations so it can never be moved. You covered the earth with oceans; the water was above the mountains. But at your command, the water rushed away. When you thundered your orders, it hurried away. Psalm 145:5-7

No matter how shaky the ground underneath your feet feels, when you’re in a relationship with God, your foundation is firm. It’s solid because it’s not your foundation. It’s God’s. What we try to create on our own will crumble. We might think we know what we’re doing, but don’t have the perspective to understand what will deteriorate. We don’t know when a fire or flood will come. We don’t know what kind of bugs will infest the foundation we are certain will last a lifetime and perhaps beyond. We try to predict the natural wear and tear on building materials, but it’s just that: natural. We need supernatural construction. We need God.

God doesn’t make everything obvious. Even if he provided us with every piece of information, we wouldn’t fully understand because of our limited capacity. We’re human. He’s not! We often try to explain God, but every time we try to define him, we limit him, because our definitions will always be less than who God actually is.

Just as the mountains were covered with water and only revealed in God’s perfect timing, we are much more than we appear. We must allow him to reveal us as he knows we are ready and the people around us are ready. He knows the timing of his kingdom work. We respond in obedience, never sitting and waiting when he’d have us respond and stand and never forging forward when he’d have us patiently be still.

We’re like pieces of pottery. He knows what beauty lies within us. We’re created in his image to honor and glorify him. We must be molded to most accurately reflect who he is. He molds and shapes us throughout life. We respond to his touch and voice. We feel stretched. We feel pressure. We feel messy. We feel unusable. Or sometimes we think of ourselves as much more beautiful than we are. We need to see ourselves through the trustworthy eyes of God.

Live It. Declare a truth of Psalm 145. Finish the following with a current burden. When you thundered your orders, ___________________ hurried away. Write your sentence on an index card and place it in your Bible to see on a regular basis.