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A few steps back

The more I try to understand God well enough to actually be able to describe him, the more I find I still don't understand him as well as I thought I did yesterday! Do you ever find yourself in that spot? Thinking you finally understand how he moves and works, and then wham...he stuns you with something else you just find totally awesome about him! One thing I have come to understand very well about God is that he isn't put off by 'second chances' - in fact, he affords a means by which we can actually get them - it is called grace! He has a great many attributes, but this is the one you will hear me speak about time and time again - simply because it never gets old, never wears out, and is never fully appreciated until we need it! If you had to define grace, you could use the old school definition of undeserved favor - getting what you didn't deserve. I might describe it as 'second chances' - the setting right of what was done wrong so we can make a go at it again. We may not hit the mark the second time, but eventually we get closer and closer until one day we finally do!

Next, God spoke to Jonah a second time: "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer." This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God's orders to the letter. (Jonah 3:1-3)

Jonah did not listen the first time. Sound like anyone else we might know? If you are like me, you just pointed at yourself. We have noticed how Jonah preferred his own way over God's and look where it got him! First, there was this humongous storm that about tore apart the ship he was sailing on and almost claimed the lives of the sailors who were on the ship. Then a whole bunch of these sailor guys turn on him because they are aghast that he has brought this calamity upon them. If this is not enough, he ends up overboard, swallowed by a gigantic fish of some kind! Our running from God may not have landed us in such an "interesting" place, but I guess we have had some of those moments we'd all call "God putting us right where we need to be" in order to get our attention! Right in the midst of the right company who will make us face reality. Right in the midst of the circumstances that will make life a little to 'dark' for our liking. 

It is only when God gets our full attention that we are able to actually realize we need a second chance! We have to recognize we have acted wrong if we ever expect to act right! Unfortunately, the point between the wrong choice and the realization of how far it has taken us off-course may be longer than we realize. That is why God warns us against rebellion - it leads us down paths we'd rather not have taken and it results in losses we'd really rather not have experienced. In the period of time between the choice to do wrong and the actions which lead up to us realizing the gravity of our wrong choices, a whole lot of things may happen to us. We may make a whole series of wrong choices - leading to a whole series of wrong actions and wrong circumstances. We may engage others in our journey - or at least see them affected by those choices! The 'wrong' choice leads to moral compromise and moral compromise almost always affects those around us.

Don't get down on yourself here - God cares enough about each of us to prepare a point in time for a second chance - in fact, there are lots and lots of those 'points in time'! The grace of God pursues us until we actually realize we have need for it! Grace and love are really "intertwined" character traits of God. Where you see his love, you also observe his grace in action. Where grace abound, his love is felt and experienced up close and personal! To be embraced by grace is to be embraced in God's love! To realize God's love, you only need to look as far as his grace extended where not deserved - where second chances abound. How far have you traveled from where God intended for you to be today? Regardless of the distance you have placed between you and God's planned path, the road is clearly marked with all kinds of "grace stones". They are like little stepping stones back to the place we actually got off track! When we look close enough, we see his "grace" all along the way. He has pursued us all along the way - those "grace stones" are actually the evidence of his footsteps in pursuit of us!

I understand God's grace because I have needed it so often. I appreciate his love because it has embraced me over and over again. The tendency to need his grace is still there in my life, no matter how many times I have experienced it! I still make wrong choices - but I hope the distance between the first wrong step and the realization of my need to turn back into his arms is not as far! He is indeed a God of second chances - rich in grace! If you find yourself in need of following his "grace stones" right back into his awaiting arms, don't hesitate today! You know what a second chance is? It is us turning around, taking the steps back into his arms, and finding he has never been far from us through it all. Just sayin!

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