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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Meaning to" and "getting there" are different

We try to bring a lot of things into God's presence, thinking we can somehow repay him for his grace or win even more of his grace or affection by what we offer to him.  The sad truth is that no gift is sufficient - no sacrifice great enough - no offering satisfactory.  Two things God asks of us - live justly and love kindness - then walk with him in humility.  He doesn't "expect" us to "do" things "for" him - like bringing him sacrifices, offerings, and doing all kinds of good works.  We don't get "merits" for what we do anymore than we get "demerits" for what we don't do, or the wrong stuff we do.  God isn't into keeping score and this is probably one of the most liberating things we can understand about God's grace.  In his grace, "score-keeping" doesn't exist.  Nothing we do "adds to" or "takes away" from the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Nothing!

What should I bring into the presence of the Eternal One to pay homage to the God Most High?  Should I come into His presence with burnt offerings, with year-old calves to sacrifice?   Would the Eternal be pleased by thousands of sacrificial rams, by ten thousand swollen rivers of sweet olive oil?  Should I offer my oldest son for my wrongdoing, the child of my body to cover the sins of my life?  No. He has told you, mortals, what is good in His sight.  What else does the Eternal ask of you but to live justly and to love kindness and to walk with your True God in all humility?  (Micah 6:6-8 VOICE)

We are all a little uncomfortable with this idea of grace because we find it hard to love or be thankful "without strings" - it is just not how we are taught to "respond" or "react" in life. Think about it.  As a child, when an adult gave you something, what were you told to say? "Thank You" - right?  Whether you wanted those peas on your plate - you were to say "thank you" and just be "grateful" for what you received (after all, there were starving children somewhere in the world who would be grateful for those peas if you weren't).  If you received something which brought you delight (like a piece of candy or a new toy), you had a little more expressiveness in your "gratefulness", didn't you?  You were more genuine in your thanksgiving.  We were almost taught to be kind of "false" in our gratefulness when our parents were trying to teach us to have "good manners".  Now, I am a big proponent of good manners, don't get me wrong, but it is the attitude of thankfulness deeper in the heart which actually makes God's heart move with delight as we approach his throne of grace.  He isn't impressed with us just having "good manners" when it comes to bringing him praise, thanksgiving, or worship!

I know there are hundreds who engage in this season of thanksgiving on public media feeds by finding something each day for which they are grateful, then posting a short blurb about what makes them thankful for that blessing, person, or possession.  I am quite grateful for a house to live in, a reliable car to move me between points here and there, and even for the many great relationships I have been given in life.  I am also very grateful for God's grace in my life - to live each day with mercy is a blessing I find harder to put in words.  It is an attitude best expressed in the heart and how the heart responds to God when I actually stop to meditate upon his love.  Words on a page cannot really fully express what my heart feels when I confess my sins to a merciful God - when I don't have to worry if that was one "demerit" too much on the wrong side of the page for him to forgive.  God isn't into my "gifts" or "sacrifices", but what does delight his heart is when he sees me model that same limitless grace in my response to those whose "demerits" could add up on the wrong side of the page if I were to be keeping score.

Live justly and love kindness - two things best expressed in us not keeping score against those who probably have more demerits than merits!  When we refuse to "mark that one up as a demerit", we are showing the same mercy God shows us - we let go of the offense and we embrace them in love.  It isn't simple, but it is the example we are shown and the hope of God's heart that we learn to live by that example.  God's hope is that we live decently, learning to give as freely as we have received - not because we "have to" because it is "good manners" - but because we desire to be as free in this gift of grace as he has been in sharing it with us.  It is hard to not attach strings to our forgiveness, mercy, and grace - isn't it?  We hope the other person will change their actions, be more responsive to us, or even be less offensive in their own behavior when we respond in a way they didn't deserve.  God doesn't just give us grace when he knows we will be "different" as a result of that grace - he gives it even when he knows we "won't be different"!  Thank goodness for that - for if I only received grace from God when he knew for sure I'd never do the same wrong thing again, it might be I'd receive it pretty infrequently!  I "mean" to change, but I don't always get to the point of change before the next time I need his grace!

Thankful hearts embrace the love of God even when they don't understand fully the love which is extended.  It takes a lifetime of walking with him to actually come closer to understanding his heart - if we even get close to understanding it!  I don't know about you, but my greatest moments of thankfulness come when I consider all I deserve in life based upon how I have lived and see all I have received which I did not deserve - all because of grace.  Grace enhances our lives with a richness we don't possess apart from receiving it.  It cannot be improved upon, but it can be magnified by the giving away of that grace when it is least deserved by those who act in ways which disappoint, bring disparaging actions upon us, or just leave us a little damaged by their impact.  When we give grace away, we can be assured the "reserves" of his grace are sufficient to not only refill us, but overflow us with even more grace for the journey.  For this, I am most grateful.  Just sayin!