Grace in Giving

graceWhenever you are able, do good to people who need help. (Proverbs 3:27)

Ponder It.

  • When and how have you received grace?
  • How is God generous in the grace he gives?
  • How are you generous in the grace you give?

Receive It. Grace is a gift we freely give to others. But it’s not always easy, is it? After all, if someone doesn’t really deserve grace (by our own assessment), why should they receive grace? We’ve become so accustomed to responding based on what people deserve that we feel justified in withholding grace. We operate more on our rights, including our right to be angry, guarded, judgmental, happy, and so on, than on God’s truth of what grace is. Grace isn’t deserved. It’s not earned. It’s freely given, and the free gift of grace doesn’t just apply to the grace that God gives us. His grace is always free, so to truly extend grace to someone is to give it freely. God’s grace is always abundant, sufficient, and generous, whether he is giving his grace to us or we are giving God’s grace to others.

Because God is the source of grace, any grace that we give comes from him. We might not always acknowledge it as his grace. We might prefer to believe we’ve extended grace on our own. We might be tempted, or even trained, to believe grace is something that makes us generous and good, that it’s something we decide to put forth the effort to extend, but if there are any strings attached, if grace does not come freely, it doesn’t accurately reflect God’s grace. When we give grace, we are generous, because all of God’s grace is generous. In fact, when we give anything through God’s provision, setting aside our own control and preferences, we are giving generously and grace-full-y.

Live It. Give away something freely today. It can be tangible or not. The more value it has for you, the more generous the gift, not that the gift has to have actual monetary value, but it has value to you personally. Only give what God is directing you to give, but when you ask him how you can bless someone else or give something you’re not intended to have, you will be giving generously.

Extending (and Witholding) Forgiveness

imagesThen Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Jesus answers Peter’s question with a parable of a man who was greatly forgiven, then refused to forgive a much smaller debt. Whether the debts against us are big or small, I wonder: How often do we not extend the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that God has extended to us?

I know, it’s easier to carry a grudge, to hang on to the hurt. It’s easier to remember the offense and recall it in a way that might punish the other person. We might want to hold the person in a cell, trapped by what he or she did.

But in that process, we trap ourselves, too. We can only truly experience the freedom we claim for ourselves and also extend to others.

Extending (and witholding) forgiveness is, in reality, accepting (or rejecting) freedom.

Instruction to Live

Green Apple In Woman HandsKeep my commands and live. (Proverbs 7:2a)

People often think that God takes all the fun out of life. That with all His commandments and expectations, life is somehow less than it can be.

Not true.

Not even remotely true.

God fills life. His commandments add fullness. There is freedom in obedience.

God’s instructions aren’t just “do not,” but “do.”

Do pursue Him.

Do honor Him.

Do love Him and others.

Do let Him change and grow you.

Do know how much He loves you, how He has sacrificed for you, what He has planned for you.

Do live.

 

Worship Through Life

worshippageThen Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with their tambourines and danced. (Exodus 15:20)

When do you feel most worshipful?

How does music affect you?

How do you worship throughout the week?

Miriam and other women worshipped in song and dance. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I picture them worshipping with freedom, unhindered, excited to celebrate and praise God. I wonder how often we allow ourselves to revel in a season of pure worship. Do we more often relegate worship to a specific time and day of the week? Has it become something is based on an event instead of a lifestyle?

Of course, we cannot go through everyday life dancing. Imagine danceing in and out of your office, house, car, restaurant, coffee shop, meetings, and public bathrooms. I guess we could do that if we so desired, but it’s not practical, and we’d definitely get some odd stares. We’d start trending on social media: #Ijustsawthedancingladytoo! But worship is so much more than dancing through life. It encompasses all that praises God, acknowledging Him in the daily details, thanking Him, sharing Him, choosing Him.

A worshipful life knows no boundaries of worship. God gives us freedom. Worshipping Him might lead to singing in our cars, skipping down the sidewalk, picking up trash as we walk through the park, smiling at a stranger, and so much more. We begin to see the world and everything in it through God’s perspective, and as we do, we cannot help but appreciate and honor Him. Relinquishing every single moment of our lives to Him isn’t easy, but we don’t fail in an instant. We have another choice to seek and worship Him in the next moment. Much of our life can be a season of worshipful dancing—literal or figurative—when we keep our eyes, mind, and heart on Him.

Choose a favorite worship prompt. Listen to music. Begin to journal. Play an instrument. Dance around the house. Take a stroll through a flower garden or wooded area. Savor God’s presence. Connect with Him. Praise Him.

Lean Back and Trust

481512df567a16d75190348618e9ee61I caught myself leaning forward a bit in the office chair during staff meeting. I noticed it because I realized the person to my left, who was leaning way back in his chair, might not be able to see the person to my right. I started to lean back, then paused. I remembered one reason to not lean back.

I didn’t completely trust the chair. The first week I sat in in, it gave way. It wasn’t much. I didn’t fall. But it startled me. Others chuckled, because apparently, it wasn’t the first time it had happened. In fact, I soon learned that someone’s chair seems to give way a little bit every few weeks. I don’t know if it is always the same chair that somehow gets switched around or if the chairs are just faulty. Either way, I’m not going to trust them by leaning all the way back. If it ever gives way when I am completely relaxed in it, I will end up on the floor!

We say we believe in God, but do we trust Him? Or, do we lean forward a bit, because it’s safer? We keep a little bit of control (or at least, the illusion of it). But the truth is God is fully trustworthy. In fact, He’s the only One who is. He won’t let us down. Oh, we’ll feel uncertain. We’ll feel shifts in support. We’ll even fall and fail by our own standards, but God knows differently. He knows the support we need and the freedom to shift we need.

If we want to believe God, we have to go beyond knowing about Him and claiming Him when it’s comfortable and convenient. In order to truly believe Him, we must trust Him more and more, regardless of our circumstances.

Freedom Can Be Misapplied

Everything is permissibleFreedom is not getting to do whatever we want.

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. (1 Cor. 10:23)

In these verses, Paul is speaking, and he’s quoting a phrase, “Everything is permissible,” the Christians in Corinth likely said. Plus, he added a correction and a challenge for them to consider what is helpful and what builds (others) up. Just because we ‘re free to do something doesn’t mean it’s what we should do. Just because we believe it’s something we should do (usually because it’s something we want to do) doesn’t mean we should.

How many times do you express the right or freedom to do something as a rationalization or excuse? You believe you are in the right because you have the freedom to choose. If it’s difficult to see in yourself, try looking around you. What do others tout as their “right” because of freedom, but you disagree? Why do you disagree?

Now, consider why someone else would use a similar disagreement for something you claim as a right or freedom? How is your rationalization similar? Are you starting to see the slippery slope?

As a Christ-follower, you might throw in the added power punch of “I do it because I know God wants me to. I’m just following and honoring Him.” But are you, really? Have you checked with Him on your motivation and your heart? And have you checked with Him recently, or are you on auto-pilot? Do you truly understand what He’s prompting you to do in a specific situation? Are you letting others sway you, and possibly seeing that influence as positive? Are you jumping on a bandwagon Jesus isn’t leading? Worse yet, are you using Him name and encouraging others to follow when He’s not leading?

Freedom can be deceptive. What you believe is freedom might be bondage. In order to be free, you need to know what to choose, and perhaps more important at times, what not to choose. You have to discern, which means you have to yield yourself. You have to be humble and set yourself aside. It’s counter-intuitive. We want to think freedom is really about us, that we get to step up and do more because of our freedom. Yes, but…only when we give up ourselves. We then get to walk all over the places God has prepared for us. We have full freedom within His boundaries. And when we live in His freedom, those boundaries don’t seem limited. They seem protective and…freeing.

We don’t miss out when we live in God’s freedom. We miss out when we don’t. We miss out on the region of freedom He’s prepared for us.

Be careful not to define your own freedom. It’s not yours to define. It’s yours to receive and savor. Open your eyes, hands, and heart. God has a grand gift for you.

Choices are Not All Cut-and-Dried

roadsAs I was riding on the back of the ATV through a very cold and rainy day, I thought about the options of the trails. We could travel a little faster on the flat, open trails, but that meant the rain hit us harder, and the wind seemed stronger and colder. The smaller, secluded trails gave us some protection but the wind and rain, we had to go slower. One route was more straight and direction; the other meandered. One let us see a broader perspective; the other protected us from the elements.

Choices are not all cut-and-dried, even when we’re following God. I see so many rants on social media, claiming “If we would all just agree that this issue is important, and this side is the only real choice, then all would be right with the world.” I’m not saying there are no absolutes. If you follow my blog, you know that is far from the truth. I believe in some non-negotiable absolutes. I believe God’s Word is true. I also believe we live in a confusing, chaotic world, and we easily get disoriented. Our perspective gets out of whack. There are some definite lines in the sand, but many times, I believe we want to put a line in concrete, camp out beside it, and personally take on the responsibility of policing anyone who comes near it from either side.

I think God gives us a lot of freedom. He gives us some choices that are right versus wrong. Those are spine issues. They’re essential to faith and to life. But they are also few in number. Then, there are bazillion rib issues…the many other choices we face. Just as the open road and the secluded path both took us where we needed to go on the ATV but the challenges (and benefits) we’d face with each one differed, we stand at many intersections that don’t take us in opposite directions of right and wrong but journey options of the lessons we’ll learn and the struggles we’ll have.

What rib issues are you making into spine issues?

Jewish tradition taught that there were/are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. People divided over them, arguing how to obey them or which ones were more important. Jesus cleared it up:

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Still, we argue, putting our own preference or opinion as to what should be done in each situation on the mantle to be followed, obeyed, and worshiped. God’s path isn’t the easy path, but there is more than one difficult path options. We need to discern which one God wants us to take and trust someone else might need to face other struggles in order to get closer to Him along the way. Choices are not always cut-and-dried.