Approaching Issues with Grace

downloadSo many issues, so many choices in how to approach them.

There are the biggies: gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, and the list goes on. Then there are the ones that we don’t deal with on a national scale, but they soak into the very same topics as well as permeate our daily lives: forgiveness, tolerance, hypocrisy, mercy, pride, rights, humility…

We separate one from another, because we don’t want to have to apply the same standards everywhere. We can support one issue based on a premise that undermines another. We can set ourselves emotionally aside for one issue but come unglued for another. We point out the logical flaws of someone else’s argument but fail to see our own. Worse yet, we apply God’s Word to condemn others while applying God’s Word into our own lives, inviting him to challenge our own faults and offenses.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he went back to the Temple, and all the people came to him, and he sat and taught them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They forced her to stand before the people. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught having sexual relations with a man who is not her husband. The law of Moses commands that we stone to death every woman who does this. What do you say we should do?” They were asking this to trick Jesus so that they could have some charge against him.

But Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they continued to ask Jesus their question, he raised up and said, “Anyone here who has never sinned can throw the first stone at her.” Then Jesus bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Those who heard Jesus began to leave one by one, first the older men and then the others. Jesus was left there alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus raised up again and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?”

She answered, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.” (John 8:1-11)

How can we approach all the issues surrounding us? Grace.

We can’t force others to walk the same journey we’ve walked, recognizing every truth we’ve struggled to face. We can’t fix all wrongs or become the keeper of all moral rights and wrongs. God is the judge, and he does a good job of it. He doesn’t need our help. He needs our obedience. And being obedient to God means living out the lives he created us to live, becoming more and more like him every moment of every day.

Can you claim to becoming more like God with every moment of every day?

When we walk with God, the issues become secondary. How we approach every person and every situation comes from the core of our faith. We yield to how he guides our responses, and he knows what he’s doing more than we’ll ever know while walking this journey on earth. When we’re concerned with where God has us and what he’s teaching us, we’ll be a lot less concerned with keeping track of everyone’s issues. Oh, we’ll certainly still be engaged in issues, because God engages us in the community and world we live. But we stop trying to fit God into the issues; we let the issues fit into our relationship with God.

God sent Jesus to place a grace-filled path under your feet. Are you walking on it? As you do, you will be living the grace-filled path out loud for all to see and hear.

But the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to true life. (Matthew 7:14a)

Celebrating the Prodigal

indexHe also said: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living...

while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:11-13,19-24)

We are all prodigals. We all run from something at some point in hopes that we can escape one thing or person to find something or someone better. We all have running in common. Maybe not the same circumstance, but the same type of action. So, judging each other for running is nothing more than calling out our own faults and shortcomings.

What sets us apart is how we see and receive others when they run. Is our response like the father’s? Do we expect people to pay a certain price, learn specific lessons, and say the words we want to hear from them, or do we let God work in their lives and expect grace, mercy, and forgiveness as He would?

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.

Worship Today

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

Worship Today

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest

(Francesca Battistelli, If We’re Honest)

When Serving Hurts and Humbles

I was a small part of serving hundreds of families thousands of pounds of food so they would have the opportunity to struggle a little less through the holidays. Many came together to organize and serve, and I loved the face-to-face moments with people who were so appreciative. They came through with a variety of needs, some I could identify and others I couldn’t. But what I saw wasn’t a group of needy people; I saw individuals who had their own stories and lives. I tried to meet their eyes with encouragement and affirmation. So many wanted to pour their gratitude into me. I had many sweet interactions.

What surprised me was that I didn’t know but a handful of people who came through the line. It really bothered me. I wondered what I was doing wrong that I wasn’t coming in everyday contact with more people in need. How could I alter my routines to see more needs? It’s not that I never find people in need. It’s not that I don’t pause long enough to help people in a variety of ways. I’m not complacent, but I suddenly felt as if my routines were insufficient to see the needs that surrounded me. As I finished up the day, I sat in my car humbled and saddened, yet so full of joy for the opportunities and interactions of the day.

On the way home, my husband called to let me know our electricity was out. I had done the grocery shopping the day before, so I had a full refrigerator. Although my first thought was how important it would be to try to save the food, I quickly checked my attitude and priorities. So many people don’t have a warm home or a running refrigerator. Many people who had received food didn’t know how to prepare it. I began to think about whether or not they had spoons to stir or knifes to cut meat. I wondered if they had flashlights to see in their dark houses as the sun set or a warm blanket when the heat wouldn’t turn on.

I’ve helped some through the years. I’d like to say I’ve helped a lot, but since that day, what I’ve done seems to pale in comparison to what is possible. I don’t know what it was about that day, but it heightened my sensitivity. It humbled me to help even more, which I’ve done in the past several weeks.

But there is so much more to be done.

Give. Serve. Sacrifice.

Steep, Don’t Dip

One of the things I appreciated most when recently speaking north of Toronto was the excellent tea. In most places I travel (and live), when I ask for a cup of hot tea, I get a cup of hot water with a tea bag. I don’t get tea; I get potential tea.

Tea needs to steep. That’s how the flavor floods the water so it is bold and consistent. Dipping a tea bag in water that cools with every passing second doesn’t have the same effect. Steeping requires heat and time.

There is a lot in our lives that needs to be steeped with heat and time, yet we prefer to dip. We cautiously, repeatedly dip and are satisfied with the results because we see some change. We don’t worry about the potential, better results we could get with a different process, because we rationalize contentment with our smaller efforts. We don’t want to endure the heat, and we certainly don’t want to wait across much time.

The topic of the weekend at the conference was joy, and we talked about how we can’t expect to truly experience the fullness of the joy God intends by just dipping into it every now and then. We need to steep in it, so that its flavor truly permeates us.

Isn’t that the case with so much of what God provides and wants for us?

What would happen if we steeped in His love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? His mercy, grace, forgiveness, generosity, wisdom, power, justice, and compassion?

Steep or dip? It’s your choice.