Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lately, I've been learning...

Grace, grace, God’s grace.
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace, grace, God’s grace.
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to grace, mercy, and passion lately. It has probably helped that our church has started a new series focusing on spiritual awakening that has gone along quite nicely with a prayer I made a few weeks ago: “Let me know You more. Let me have a passion to learn about You and a desire to read more of Your word.”

I do my daily Bible study most mornings. I’ve done this for quite some time, but, I’ve noticed, it had become more of a routine – not something so much that I want to do as much as a habit. I want my Bible study to be a joy each day, something to look forward to, something I don’t want to stop.

So bring that longing with our church’s study with the Daniel Fast (I’ll get to that in a later post), and I realized this week…the fire is burning. It started as a little flicker of a flame that is slowly growing, something I hope that will never stop. At any rate, I just wanted to share with you some of the things God has taught me in the last week:

1. God loves EVERYONE. (Acts 10:34-35)
This one is really easy for me…when thinking about people who I don’t know. But it’s a lot harder to swallow – and act on – when I think about individuals who have harmed or maligned me or my loved ones. But when I think about it with those individuals’ names in the blank: God loves ________ -- it becomes potent. And I need to take responsibility in possibly pushing them away from God. I hope that has not been the case, but I’m sure it has been. It’s very easy for me to respond the way the world would respond – with anger and sarcasm – than with love and mercy. But that gets me to Point No. 2.

2. God loves me. (Matthew 7:11)
I know not everyone grew up with awesome parents like I did. Seriously – I’ve got the best parents ever. When I think about how I was raised, how my mom and dad made sure I was active in church, how they continually love me and are overly gracious to me, how they have adopted my husband as their son and love him equally…it’s amazing. There’s just no other word for it. But if our earthly parents (which, granted, I realize not all parents are that great – TRUST ME, I realize this) know to give us good things…how much more does our God know and want to give us good things? Good things like grace, mercy, forgiveness, joy. Flipping mind-boggling.

Then, take it a step further. If God loves me and has shown me all of these good things and God loves everyone else…shouldn’t I love everyone else, too? We’ve heard it all the time – it’s easy to love your friends, but it’s really hard to love your enemies. REALLY HARD. And sometimes there needs to be separation for safety’s sake. Abusive relationships, for instance. Anger is fine – anger can be righteous – but we cannot let it advance to hate and bitterness.

3. People want to hear about God’s love more than His judgment.
This came to me this morning in preparation for next Sunday’s lesson. People want love. They want to feel love. That’s why we have so many social networks in attempts to connect with others, why people get into wrong relationships, why individuals divorce after they feel their spouse isn’t loving them enough. People want to be loved. And what better way to show them love than through the Gospels? Through God, who loves them more than we ever could? Yes, there’s a time to discuss judgment, and yes, I do think at times our culture takes the aspect of God’s love out of context and presents it without consequence to our actions, but I think Christians focus on hellfire and brimstone more than this story of redeeming grace and love.

There are consequences to our actions, and, at times, when we stray, God will discipline us to bring us closer to Him. People don’t want to hear that. People want to hear a karma Bible story – do good things and good things will come to you. Really? The Bible is full of examples of people who did good and had mounds of trials come their way: Job. Stephen. Jesus.

Going back to the end of the first graf in this point, God does discipline those He loves. Trials are meant to bring us closer to Him – and while I have prayed during trials of the past year, I don’t feel like I used those issues to grow closer. I just prayed because I could do nothing else. But I want to study more, I want to grow more – and I want to share that God loves you.

God loves YOU. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by God, the creator of the universe? Well, guess what – you’ve got His love.

Now it’s just a matter of loving Him in return.


Ginger said...

Love. Amen. Very well put.

Brooke said...

love this. i think we have to full accept it before we can give it away to others. so hard - enduring trials is one thing, but to get to that point where we actually seek to grow through them!

misti said...

Amen, sister...love it.