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Pure and simple

Some days, I am on top of the world - sailing along without worry or hindrance. Others I am in the pit looking up - barely able to keep my head above water, really uncertain about the way things are going to turn out that day. The ups and downs, twists and turns of life just keep us in knots, wondering what is coming next, not sure we will be able to 'keep up' or 'make it through'. It is one thing to feel these various emotions because of another's action within our lives - quite another to feel them because of our own poorly prepared and 'dumbly executed' actions, isn't it? One brings a sense of anger, mistrust, fear, and perhaps even the desire to retaliate a little. The other brings a sense of frustration, guilt, remorse, and if we are being totally honest here, even a little bit of what we call shame.

Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (Romans 12:3)

The main reason we experience these ups and downs in our emotions is our viewpoint or vantage point in life - it colors our interpretation of all life sends our way. I wonder if we really know what it means to live in "pure grace". I think we might have an idea of grace, but I think most of us actually do not fully appreciate the depth of grace in our lives - going to the deepest places of hurt and sin in our lives. We don't understand its breadth - reaching into the periphery and uncovering what only festers where it is secretly hidden. Amazingly, we do understand how to cover up, run from, work to be free of, and involve ourselves in all kinds of spiritual contortions in order to "feel forgiven". Yet, that 'feeling' is a waning thing - probably for about as long as it takes for us to do something else that is kind of dumb, or poorly executed in our lives! Paul writes to us about the grace of God - pure and simple - we are incapable of adding nothing to it! It is this grace which sets man right with God - pure grace - nothing 'mixed into it' that we can add on our own merit. This same grace restores hope to the hopeless soul - the soul that keeps doing the same dumb things time and time again. Nothing is quite like grace. Grace is indeed not fully understood, but I wonder if we were ever supposed to 'understand' grace, or to simply accept it, allow it to regenerate us, and then walk free of the very thing that required grace in the first place?

Living is at its best when it is in "pure grace". There is nothing more fulfilling than to be aware of how much God has forgiven in our lives, the ways he has changed a hardened and unyielding heart, or the phenomenal job he does in changing our sometimes pretty 'warped' mindset. Yet, we live far short of "pure grace", don't we? We "muddy" the grace of God with the actions of our own attempts at "feeling forgiven". We want to do something to "feel forgiven" - like serving out of obligation rather than love, engaging in religious activities for the sake of how it makes us feel. Then we wonder why we just don't break free from the feelings associated with our past failures. It is almost always because we don't understand grace - a gift, pure and simple, with no strings attached. We don't bring our "goodness" to God - he brings it to us! No matter what, God's grace is ours - we just have to learn to accept the grace we have been given and stop trying to "add" to it! We only understand ourselves when we behold God. Why? He is our creator - we are created in HIS image. When we look upon him, we see exactly what he created us to be! As we behold him, we see how he sees us! It is in beholding what he is - pure, holy, loving, righteous, long-suffering - the revelation of how he sees us becomes more real. We are definitely not pure - but in Christ, we are totally pure. We are definitely not the embodiment of love - but in Christ, we experience pure love. We are certainly not very patient or long-suffering - but in each extension of God's grace, we begin to understand the limitless supply of his grace.

It is his action within us which helps to "even out" those ups and downs of emotions. It is what he does in and for us that produces "evenness" in our character. Left to our own devices, we would still ride the roller-coaster of emotions. We simply cannot experience lasting emotional stability if we are counting on any human effort of our own to make us "feel" right. Eventually, given enough time, we will disappoint ourselves! We will do something, say a few choice words, or forget our commitments. In the end, all the religious effort to be "good" or "pure" will just not "make us" so! Only grace has the ability to accomplish what grace is intended to do - to pardon, to release, to erase. Nothing is quite like grace! I have observed a trend to hand out all these 'powerful' sports drinks at soccer, football, and baseball games now. The question that comes to mind is if we are losing water while exerting ourselves, why aren't we drinking water? The drinks may be good, but if all we need is water, why do we try to put more in? I have to ask, if we have fallen from grace, why are we trying to replace it with anything other than grace? Just askin!

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