Grace in Stillness

graceGod says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be praised in all the nations; I will be praised throughout the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Ponder It.

  • How often are you spiritually still?
  • How do you struggle with spiritual stillness?
  • What do you anticipate from God through spiritual stillness?

Receive It. Grace meets us where we are, but we don’t always meet it face-to-face. We skirt around it or walk over it because we’re too busy, or we fail to focus on it in the stillness. As we still ourselves, it seems obvious that we would experience God’s presence, but that’s only the case when we still ourselves in God’s presence. We must be intentional about the stillness of our lives. We often struggle with stillness, because we don’t seem to find the time to be still. We feel guilty because we’re not still often enough or long enough. We see the shortcomings of our stillness. Or sometimes, we’re too still. We refuse to move out of fear. We all need a slight nudge, whether it’s into stillness or out of the wrong kind of stillness.

When we enter stillness in the presence of God, we experience the consistency of his presence, but our experiences will be different. Because God engages in a relationship with us, he works in our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes we are filled with his presence and grace over a season in our lives. Stillness doesn’t equate inactivity. We can be engaged with the activities of life but find a stillness deep within, where God gives us his peace and grace to sustain and fuel us. Stillness can also be a moment, when we close our eyes to our surroundings and open our hearts to be surrounded by God and his grace. We can be still when the chaos or noise of life surrounds us, and we can be still when nothing but the sights and sounds of nature surround us. Spiritual stillness begins in our hearts and consumes our minds. But spiritual stillness is always teeming with grace.

Live It. Practice being still during a noisy moment in your day. Whether the noise around you is in what you hear, what you see, or what you’re thinking, get still. Focus on God’s presence. Trust him to pour into you in the quiet place of your soul even among the noise of your surroundings. Thank him for his reliable provision despite your circumstances.

Grace in the Light

graceYou are the giver of life. Your light lets us enjoy life. (Psalm 36:9)

Ponder It.

  • How have you enjoyed God’s light in your life?
  • How does your perspective change as the quality and position of the light around you changes?
  • How does God’s light differ from lights of the world?

Receive It. Grace highlights truth in its light. Grace illuminates the truthfulness of any situation. We cling to what we think the truth of something is. We think we’ve done something that can’t be forgiven. We think someone else has offended us or someone else in an irreparable way. We think something we believed or assumed at one point in our lives is accurate and cannot be questioned. Grace says, “Take another look and look through the eyes of truth.”

Light is beautiful. It creates beautiful patterns in our lives. It illuminates the reality of a situation. Without it, we cannot see. And without accepting God’s grace, we cannot live it out. We try to prove ourselves, take control, and establish and maintain self-sufficiency. It’s not going to happen, because God is the source of proof, control, and sufficiency. God doesn’t just provide us with light; he is light. We don’t just find God in light. We find light in God. We experience God when we’re living in his light. The two can’t be separated. The same is true with grace. God’s grace cannot be separated from him. It’s who he is.

Live It. Stand in the light. Look around you and see how the light impacts what you see and how you see it. Change your perspective, turning your body or taking a step into or away from the light. Pay attention how the changes you make impact your perspective. The light doesn’t change. Your perspective changes based on where you are in relation to the light. Where you are in relation to the light always makes a difference in what you see and how you see it. Consider how your experience impacts your relationship with God and your commitment to seek and stay in his light.

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.

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.

Grace in Receiving

graceMy God will use his wonderful riches in Christ Jesus to give you everything you need. (Philippians 4:19)

Ponder It.

  • When have you received God’s grace with gratitude?
  • When have you ignored God’s grace?
  • What impact does God’s grace have on your life today?

Receive It. Grace must be received to be lived. We can know about grace. We can talk about grace. Knowing and talking can stay academic-minded, and that’s not where grace stays. Grace, when received, invades our hearts. It changes us. It changes our perspectives, and it changes the way we live. As Christians, we often give grace lip service. We acknowledge it, and we even share the facts of how God abundantly gives grace…but do we receive it? Do we think it’s something we were given when we first began a relationship with God and we rely on that “grace of the past” without fully realizing the impact it has on our lives today? We are in constant need of God’s grace, and we have constant access to God’s grace, but we must acknowledge the need and actively rely on God for grace. God gives us his grace freely, but do we sometimes leave it in the box instead of opening up the gift and using it every moment of every day?

When grace is fully received, it cannot be ignored. It overflows through our lives, impacting lives around us. We have to pay attention to how completely we are receiving grace, because it directly impacts our giving of grace. When we have a grace-giving problem, it’s usually connected to a grace-receiving problem. When we unhook from our source of grace, and we continue to try to give grace, we will run down, relying on our own strength, which doesn’t last long and is certainly not nearly as effective as God’s. Are you leaving God’s grace unopened? Do you know it’s available but have become content with looking at the beautiful package instead of opening it up and enjoying and using what is inside? How does your idea and assumption of grace differ from God’s truth about grace, and how does he want you to respond?

Live It. Unwrap a piece of hard candy today and savor it. Consider the difference between savoring the candy before you unwrap it versus after you unwrap it.

Grace in Structure

graceLove the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Always remember these commands I give you today. Teach them to your children, and talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

Ponder It.

  • When have you felt imposed upon?
  • On a scale from one to ten, how “imposed upon” do you usually feel?
  • What situation have you had difficulty seeing God’s grace in or through?

Receive It. Grace doesn’t impose itself on you but works through every imposition, or what we define as imposition. Life is structured. Consider the structures in which you live. There are laws: local, state, and federal. There are regulations about driving, parking, banking, and shopping. Consider the rules and regulations, some which are likely unspoken, throughout your life, such as work, family, church, everyday routines, and more. You might rationalize that the structure around you is unnecessary or is inconvenient. You might easily accept some structure while vehemently fighting against other structure. God’s grace can surround every ounce of structure in your life, whether you appreciate it or not. We have a lot of choices in our lives. We might wish for more choices, but if we’re honest with ourselves, the fact that we can be discontent in the choices we have probably points to the fact that we have ample choices. Because of our discontentedness, we can misapply God’s grace into the structure of our lives. We can live out God’s grace in the areas we appreciate. We see how grace fits with structure we like, and we marry the two. But the structure we oppose is different. We categorize what we approve and what we don’t and withhold accepting and applying God’s grace. However, God’s grace is invasive. It can apply to any situation, not because of who we are or what we prefer but because of who God is and what he prefers. Are you living out God’s grace as fully as he wants throughout all the structured areas of your life?

Live It. As you go throughout your day today, consider all the structure around you, noticing what you might often overlook because it has simply been so ingrained into your daily life. What do you live by that you don’t notice much anymore? Ask God to reveal one area of structure in your life that he wants you to recognize and live out his grace. Pay attention.

Grace in Spontaneity

graceWhen Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me,” and he stood up and followed Jesus. (Matthew 9:9)

Ponder It.

  • What is something spontaneous you’ve done lately?
  • On the structure/spontaneity spectrum, where do you generally live?
  • How has God moved in spontaneous ways in your life?

Receive It. Grace is enough for every situation. Even when things pop up throughout the day, God’s grace is sufficient. What seems spontaneous to us is known and expected by God. Structure helps our lives take shape; spontaneity adds character. It’s not always character we fully embrace. Some surprises aren’t what we prefer, but other times we jump in with both feet. When it rains, and the puddles begin to form, we can jump in with both feet and enjoy the splash, or we can carefully walk around or stay inside. Neither option is always the best choice. God will lead us in different ways at different times. He wants us to stop and smell the flowers in one situation, clip and share the flowers in another situation, and focus on the stepping stones ahead of us in yet another situation. The best kind of spontaneity is being willing to respond to what God wants. And when we live out that kind of spontaneity in an ongoing way, we’re actually making it a sort of structure in our lives.

Even though God knows how his grace is being lived out through situations and relationships we don’t even see, responding to and in God’s grace will often involve spontaneity on our part. When we are sensitive to God’s leading, he highlights some situations and people around us. When we respond, we are both relying on and living out his grace. We are depending on God to guide and provide. We step off the “my plans for the day” list and take the detour he has planned. We become a vessel into which God pours his grace so it fills us up and overflows onto others.

Live It. Look for an opportunity to be spontaneous today. It can be as simple as calling someone you haven’t talked to for a while or picking up a bouquet of flowers and giving them to a stranger. Look around you and notice where God has placed you in this moment. Listen to how he’s prompting you, then respond by trusting his lead.