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 Justice

graceGod does not twist justice; the Almighty does not make wrong what is right. (Job 8:3)

Ponder It.

  • When have you taken God’s justice into your own hands?
  • When have you experienced “unfair” justice?
  • How have you personally experienced God’s justice?

Receive It. Just as God wants us to love what he loves, he also wants us to hate what he hates. Let’s be clear. God doesn’t hate people. They are his creation, and he has a purpose for each person, whether he or she fulfills it or not. He doesn’t want to lose a single person from eternal life with him, but he gives us choice, and our eternal lives are impact by those choices. God hates sin. He hates anything that comes between us and him. “Right” is that which is of God and is within his will. “Wrong” is what is against God’s will. Because we are made in his image and intended to become more like him every moment as we pursue him through faith, we’re to love what he loves and hate what he hates, which means we need to be familiar with both.

We don’t carry the responsibility of God’s justice. That’s his role. There’s a difference between being the judge and jury and being a discerning believer who isn’t gullible enough to accept falsehoods or too proud to acknowledge or assume truth. As we become familiar with God’s will and he stirs the passions within us, he will let us know when we need to respond appropriately to something that angers him. We don’t have to fix everything. We don’t need to convict someone. But we also don’t need to stand beside the road and ignore what God hates. The key is discernment, trusting God’s timing in every response of thought, words and actions.

Live It. Consider how God’s justice has helped you grow. Thank him for being just and ask him to help you reflect his justice in every response you have today.

This Can’t Be Right

14657310_1460833877264039_930398364757535582_n-300x149Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” (Luke 5:13)

We often question out of our expectations and experiences, as if certain things can’t change. We see differences and proclaim, “Well, this can’t be right, because it’s not what I know to be true or normal.” But what if our ideas and expectations need to be tweaked?

They often do.

Just because someone or something doesn’t fit our cookie cutter molds doesn’t mean we should reject them. We can listen, learn, and when appropriate, change. Sometimes we accommodate what we learn into our existing ideas and practices, and the two meld together. Other times, we set aside what we encounter but not before learning from and wrestling with it. But when we simply reject things without filtering, either quickly or over time, it through truth, we miss out. Just because we don’t like something or it makes us uncomfortable is not a good reason to toss it aside.

Instead, we can search for truth among what we encounter, what we experience, and what we expect. And we can let that truth change us into who God wants us to become…instead of changing ourselves into what we most want.

The Right and Wrong of It

imagesHe did what was right in the Lord’s sight, but not like his ancestor David. He did everything his father Joash had done. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people continued sacrificing and burning incense on the high places. (2 Kings 14:3-4)

Just because we continue what’s right doesn’t mean we get rid of what’s wrong. Both are important. Submission must be toward fully right, yet it is always a process.

Make a move today.

When We Get Turned Around

We get turned around for a variety of reasons.

  • We’re in a lot of pain, experiencing a crisis, and it’s all too confusing to figure out which way to turn, which way is up and which way is down.
  • We thought we were on the right track, but we got confused, and now we’ve taken enough wrong turns to not even be certain which way we’re headed and how to get to where we want to go.
  • We don’t really want to be clear on our directions. We’d rather wing it, be adventurous, and fly by the seat of our pants.
  • We don’t even know we’re turned around. Things that shouldn’t make sense seem perfectly sensible. Things that make sense seem ignorant. But we’re clueless. We don’t think we are, but we are.

Unless we know where to turn, who to cry out to, where to stand on a firm foundation, we will flounder, whether we know it or not, whether we want to admit it or not.

We can only recognize we’re off track if we know the right track. We must be able to discern the right from the wrong.

Right and wrong aren’t want we want them to be. They’re not what make us most or least comfortable. Right and wrong really aren’t about us at all.

God knows. He cares. He instructs. He corrects. He defines. He equips. He challenges.

A dear friend is struggling with some ugly, devastating health issues. Her husband regularly posts updates for a small army of us who have been loved by her over the years and continue to love her the best we can through what seems to be a downward-spiralling process. Her husband is transparent through the good and bad moments. He recently posted,

We do not see this circumstance as a reason to question God’s goodness but we see God’s goodness as a reason to question our perceptions of this circumstance.

Yes.

This family, like so many of us at some point in our lives, have been turned around and around and upside down. It feels like one of those insane amusement park rides that blurs the lines of the horizons and makes it impossible to make out anything on the ground or in the sky. Yet in the middle of the chaos, right smack in the center as the rest of the world seems to spin out of control, there is certainty. Certainty in God and His perspective, His goodness, and His will.

It doesn’t make sense, but He is still in the center of it.

No matter how turned around we feel at the moment.

Can We Justify Just About Anything?

It seems that Dinah’s brothers were justified in their attack of Shechem, Hamor, and their people. Shechem had defiled Dinah, so her brothers Simeon and Levi hatched and executed a plan that…well, executed all the able-bodied men in the community so that they couldn’t fight back. Jacob rebuked them because of the trouble they brought on the family, now with a target on their backs after just having made an agreement to live peacefully with Hamor’s people. But Simeon and Levi excused themselves by asking, “Should (Simeon) have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31)

They thought they were justified. Were they? If so, what does that say about Jacob’s rebuke? Is his concern justified, or does Simeon and Levi’s justification cancel out the possibility that Jacob could also be justified. Could they both be right? Could they both be wrong? Were there other paths they could have taken?

Should a county clerk quit her job because she is opposed to some of her responsibilities, or should she go to jail? Can either or both responses be justified?

Should a transgendered student have his or her way, or is other students’ discomfort important, too? Whose rights prevail? Can one or more responses be justified?

Should I fight and defend something or someone, or should I walk away? Can I justify either response? Is justification my goal or is truth, righteousness, and faithfulness my goal?

We can justify just about anything. We all have limits of when we claim what someone else is justifying isn’t actually justifiable. But we don’t have to justify our own actions or thoughts. In fact, we don’t really have to power to do so. That’s God’s job. Only He has the right perspective. We might think we’re doing a really great job at assuming and projecting His perspective–so much so that we’re willing to beat someone else over the head with it. But are we willing to ask someone questions, listen, understand, and build a relationship? The more we lump together people, the more people get harmed.

After all, Shechem was the one who defiled Dinah, not all the others who were killed the same night for the same reason.

Know and respond to truth, not your opinions or assumptions. Refuse to justify. Give that job to God. You have enough on your plate simply knowing Him and being faithful.

Wrong Train, Wrong Tracks

I was walking this morning and heard the rumble of a train. Not unusual. Living in central Illinois, where the land is flat and sound travels across the plains easily, I hear several trains a day. I have to cross the tracks at least twice when I walk. I speed up or slow down when I think I’ll get caught at one of the crossings. So when I heard the rumble, I looked ahead to find out where the train was and gauge my speed.

I looked ahead and found the train…and it was no ordinary train. It was an Amtrak! Now that might not seem odd for many of you, but we don’t live near tracks used by passenger trains. We have freight trains. They usually sound their piercing whistles miles in advance of crossings and noisily speed along as the weight of their loads rock along the tracks with a rhythmic clickety-clack. So why was a passenger train on the tracks?

I called my mom, who lives about 40 miles from me. She’s one of the few people who would be available at that time and wouldn’t think I was nuts for calling her for such an insignificant reason. When she answered, I blurted, “You’re not going to believe what I just saw! An Amtrak on the freight train tracks!”

Pause.

“Susan, don’t you read your newspaper?”

Well, no, I don’t on a regular basis…made worse by the fact my daughter works in the newspaper office. Apparently, my mom had read the paper when she was at my house one evening weeks ago and learned the Amtrak was being re-routed through our area because of high speed rails being laid to go through her town.

I was caught off guard when I saw the wrong train on the wrong tracks. And yet, it wasn’t the wrong train on the wrong tracks at all. I just didn’t have all the information.

I started thinking about other times I respond in surprise, argument or irritation because I’m misinformed. Or it’s not that I have the wrong information. I might not have the information I need – because I haven’t sought it – to be aware of what’s accurate or true around me.

Failing to read the newspaper holds me back from knowing there’s a problem with our drinking water, a required detour, an opportunity to get rid of items otherwise not accepted by the waste disposal company, or a community fundraiser or big sale at the local discount store.

How does failing to read God’s Word hold me back?

I don’t want to be misinformed or underinformed. To be honest, I don’t want to be overinformed either if it means I’m gathering lots of information without discerning the difference it makes in my life. I want to be familiar. Familiar with God’s Word. Familiar with God’s will. Familiar with God’s character. Familiar with God.

I don’t want to react to the wrong train on the wrong track when it’s part of the plan.