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Monday, May 16, 2016

Tending the lawn

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  (Jim Elliot)   This is truly a "deep" and "profound" observation on this clergyman's part.  To give what we cannot keep is more of a struggle than one may at first imagine. Silly as it may be, we often hold onto practices much like we hold onto things in our lives just because it has been the way we have always done things.  The defining moment comes when we actually realize we cannot get different results while doing exactly the same thing repeatedly, especially if those things are what we are counting on to somehow make us nearer, or more acceptable to God. We do a great deal to "give our best" to God, but even if we repeat the steps over and over again all we give is "our best".  I would much rather give to God what I am not able to give myself - no matter how hard I try!  Grace is something I cannot give myself - it is a gift freely given by him, but which makes all we bring to him in return all that much sweeter!

Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:1-2 VOICE)

Mr. Elliot also observed, "God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him."  As long as we are the ones determining what it is we "think" will make us "good enough" to enjoy closeness or nearness with God, we will always be settling for something less than what God requires.  If you have ever mowed the grass in a particularly rainy season, you know this illustration holds true. The grass looks even, well-tailored, for about 1-2 days.  Then in a matter of just a couple of days, there is a certain "unevenness" to the grass.  Give another couple of days and the thicker places grow at rapid pace, long blades protruding out at all angles.  As we mowed, it looked really nice.  Put that mower away and just sit back to admire the work of your hands - within short order, the "work of your hands" proves to be no match to the power of the sunlight and efficiency of the rain!  Your work just didn't "show" anymore - it was "overtaken" by the fact "untended" grass grows!

Grace puts a different "law" in effect in our lives.  It isn't us "mowing the lawn" of our behavior, attitude, or motives any longer. It is God tending that "lawn" of our lives.  He oversees the "tailoring" of our behavior until it conforms to the image of his Son, Jesus.  He guides the "grooming" of our attitude until it reflects grace, kindness, and the consistency of his love.  He "weeds out" the self-centered and self-seeking motives of our heart until all that remains at the center of our lives is him.  We cannot "keep" or "tend" the "goodness" of our lives on our own.  We need God's tending in order to truthfully realize a consistently "well-groomed", "perfectly tailored" heart, mind, and soul!  We "give up what we could not keep" in order to "gain what we cannot lose"!

All we "do" is never enough.  Grace isn't based upon "doing" - it is based upon what another has done and continues to do on our behalf.  It is like having the best of gardeners continuously working on your lawn, until there is no flaw, not one weed - lush, growing, and vibrant in every detail.  The truth of the matter is that forces will continuously work against that "purity" of growth within us.  We need someone constantly watching over us to ensure the growth is "even" (consistent).  Just sayin!