Is Grace Cheap? Actually, It’s Completely Free

Martin Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” 

For the last week I have been deeply pondering grace (again); not something new for me as I have actually become kind of a grace addict.                                          (Ever since I was introduced years ago to John Lynch and TrueFaced ministries through one of my former Liberty University professors.) 

I like it any form I can get it, I’m not fussy. I savor it like dark chocolate, a thick juicy grilled steak, fresh blueberries right off the bush, or strawberries off of the vine, summer sweet corn, or tomatoes warm out of the garden sun,  some good Irish Breakfast tea and a hot scone on a cool day, or Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream on a hot one – preferably locally home-made. No high-fructose corn sugar or cheap imitations. The real McCoy – home-made, healthy, genuine goodness.

grilled_steakI bet the food in heaven is all farm fresh and we can eat and eat but not get fat. Oh, boy!

But I digress.

Grace is like that. A picnic of the finest food where we can eat and drink until our hearts are content. Stuffed with heavenly goodness.

Jesus is the sparkling living water that fills us up to brimming. We learn to love Jesus through faith alone – by grace – nothing of our own.

Because He first loved us.

 “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:9

Why is it that people come to Christ, so unworthy and filled with hope in the unconditional grace and acceptance of a Holy God, who loves us so completely he died for us – only to spend the rest of their Christian lives struggling to earn his love, acceptance, and salvation? Always striving to be better, be more, pray more, do more, read the bible more…

And sin less – definitely sin less…

…in some vain attempt to gain acceptance, or a misguided notion it is the path to righteousness?

How’s that been working for ya?

It sure didn’t work for me.

It was so very freeing when I learned how to jump from that Merry-Go-Round of works and more works, and never measuring up, to rest in the knowledge that my filthy rags can never be improved upon in comparison to the shining cloak of Christ. I get to undeservedly wear his righteousness despite my own ongoing failures, and nothing can ever separate me from the love of God. It sure makes me love Him more. He sure makes me a better person.

It was for freedom that Christ has set you free. Gal. 5:1

Sometimes the lure of an amusement park catches me unawares and I succumb to riding again,  but now I know the road that leads me back home into the arms of grace and acceptance. I am learning it blindfolded. When I let His eyes lead me.

It’s called  “No Condemnation to Those Who Walk in Christ Road,”  and it is the MOST beautiful and peaceful road, and it never, ever, ever ends.

Grace roadAre we really that deceived to think that anything we can ever do can surpass Christ’s righteousness in us? 

Isn’t the whole New Testament the story of a rag to riches fairy tale where we get turned from an ugly, wart covered, murky pond dwelling toad, into an absolutely breathtaking,  princess – the bride of Christ- by the kiss of grace passionately bestowed upon us?

frogThe kiss that makes us full heirs to the Kingdom? The marriage of all marriages. The marriage by a King who was willing to die for his bride to bestow that kiss. That beautiful, passionate kiss given to us by the lover of our souls.

Better than human kisses. Even better than the kiss of our earthly lovers or the sweet smell of a baby’s breath.

The kiss of spiritual life.

Zoe kisses.

The more I used to strive to be like Christ, the more I failed. (And I have yet to meet anyone who can beat me in my former self-righteousness, or in my trust even if I die, you die or others die convictions. Something I’m not proud of, but I am completely forgiven.) 

Don’t tell me about works, legalism, spiritual abuse, cults or “cheap grace. I spent year riding that Merry-Go-round that leads to rejection, anger and failure.

The road that leads to guilt and self-condemnation.

Round and round – try more.

Round and round – pray more.

Round and round – do more.

Round and round – submit to God more so the devil will flee.

merry-go-roundRound and round and round and round and round and round and round and round….

It left me feeling sick to my stomach.

Isolated.

Alone.

Always reaching for God.

Always falling short.

It left me spinning without direction.

Then I saw it. Right in front of me. Jesus was reaching for my hand standing on a path I’d had glimpses of before. A path I had even walked on before. It just seems too easy, too beautiful – to simply take his hand and accept it all.

It feels undeserved.

hand-reaching-out-300x225

And it is.

The “No Condemnation to Those Who Walk in Christ Road” always lead to spiritual growth, because it’s where we are…

Loved.

Forgiven.

Accepted.

Embraced…

despite my sin which is more starkly contrasted the closer I get to Jesus,

as His unconditional love is more starkly revealed…

…along with my inability to do absolutely anything to earn it.

Completely, utterly, forgiven.

We were sinners in our self-righteousness and God loved us anyway.

We were sinners in our works, and God loved us anyway.

We were sinners in our sin, and God loved us anyway.

We still are.

God loves us anyway.

How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Gal. 3:3

In the morning (3) - Copy copyJesus Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“It is finished.”  John 19:30

 

Step on Broken Glass and You’ll Cut Your Feet

Ever notice that some of the kindest, most caring, loving, helpful, lay-down-their-lives kind of people are the ones who have been the most broken? More often than not it is the beautiful and broken people who want to help other beautiful and broken people. They are often the ones reaching out to help the not-so-broken and not-so-beautiful as well.

They are also the ones who most often get stepped on. They take people at face value. They trust too easily (how do you think they were broken?)  They often have some form of abuse in their past – physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, sexual, verbal…  It is easy to take advantage of people who have been broken. They don’t always have boundaries.  But they are survivors, and if you walk over top of them, you may just get cut. Badly.

Ever walk on broken glass?

Glass 3

Boundaries are difficult for those of us with caregiver mentalities – I know. I just learned what healthy boundaries truly are, very recently. Shortly after I learned that there was absolutely nothing I could ever do to separate me from the love of God. When you gain that understanding – truly deeply embedded in your heart – that God is so totally and completely in love with you,  boundaries are set up kind of naturally. Peacefully.  To give and receive that kind of love – it is an amazing, life altering event.

It requires being really secure in who you are as a person, really secure as to who you are in Christ to have healthy boundaries, or the boundaries can be gate-less brick walls that keep everyone out. A boundary should be something that people can walk across if they are invited, but not break bones if they run into it.  It should have a gate than can easily open to invite others in with the knowledge that they will be warmly welcomed.

gate

At least when it isn’t locked -there are times for locks. Very, very, secure locks.

The bible speaks about a “hedge of protection” being around Job to keep Satan from him. We tend to think of this hedge as something to keep us safe from harm, the “devils” tactics, accidents or calamity. It was a hedge of densely grown thorn bushes – the type that would tear even the thickest coat on a wolf or other predator if he tried to go through.

Boundaries are that hedge for us. The hedge is our ability to say “no” to others for our own health and well-being. It is the wall that keeps others from stepping on us when our compassion or kindness begins to exceed our human abilities. It is a protective barrier when our trust, going the extra mile, or giving the benefit of the doubt is trounced upon by another.

It keeps others from getting cut when they push too far and walk upon broken glass. Better a hedge than bloody and torn feet.

When the hedge is in place it acts as a barrier against the storms and allows the waves of grace to wash over us and smooth the broken shards into beauty. It gives us the strength and peace to extend grace, so that when others do overstep a boundary we don’t make them bleed. We give them a shard free space to retreat. God’s grace is always a shard free zone.

Broken Glass 1When the grace and love of God fill someone’s heart, all fear and pain is washed away – replaced by total acceptance.

The most effective catalyst for lasting change is the unconditional love of God; sweeping motivation from the inside out.

Instead of being met by shards of failed perfection, smooth stones reflect the beauty and glory of God.  He will do the work in us, and in others, if we just get out-of-the-way and let Him.

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth.

And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ” Luke 3:4b -6 

 

Parenting Isn’t for Wimps – Ask God

Anyone who has born and raised children and then watched them fly away, knows  it’s not easy. It is one of the most difficult thing a parent ever has to do. For me, it comes next to saying good-bye to a child forever, for in this lies the hope we will see them again in this life.

And the next.

First we watch them fly a little ways from the nest as they test their wings, returning daily – then flying further and further away – overnight or for several days or weeks. The first time gives us little flutters in our stomachs, a few tears, maybe even an all out bawl.

Our babies.
levi and dave sleeping

We watch them suffer from various maladies, some small, some life-threatening.

Some take them from us.

We spend our time nursing, holding, kissing, cajoling, laughing, crying, worrying, praising, proud, overwhelmed, rejoicing, pacing…

There really aren’t enough adjectives in human languages to express the emotions of a mom.

Beyond description.

We put them in sports, camps, youth groups, music, and co-ops to provide for them a rich learning environment and friends.  We put them before ourselves – they get new clothes, we pull the old out of the closest and hope it isn’t so outdated we look like a character from Full House. 

We provide them with extra love when they need it. (One that really didn’t have glowing eyes!)

Levi and Berners

They get more independent. We get more worried.

They start making plans about when they grow up. We think, “that is a long, long time from now,” even as we nod, affirm, and tell them, “Of course you can be an astronaut. You can do anything.”

We catch a glimpse of the future and push it far back in our minds. My baby still cuddles with me. The moon can wait.

Sometimes we suffer through difficult years. In Levi’s case, he was an easy kid. Sometimes given to mood swings (like his Dad used to be), but nothing big. He struggled in other ways – deeper – personal ways.

He and Joy were born after Micaiah died – they got all the hopes  – and the trauma.

We do our best to “train them up in the ways they should go,” and hope that it develops deep and lasting roots.

We watch them make a commitment to God through our traditions.  David was honored to water baptize Levi in our own creek, on a darkening, cool, October evening. Friends and family celebrate this milestone. It is a sign of hope that the God we love will watch out for our children, as they seek Him.

Water Baptism 3Then the day comes, sneaking up like a thief in the night when they are no longer babies or children, but young men.

They start to pull away – also preparing themselves to leave. It hurts to leave.

It’s time, and we have raised them and prepared them for this. God only gives them to us for a short time to raise them to give back to Him. He has bigger plans.

Eternal plans.

Plans that also include their suffering.

The hardest part of parenting is watching our children suffer. From the pain of infancy, through the many trials of a broken world, we watch them suffer. Crushes, jobs, friends, competition, sickness, failure – for some – the more serious pains of a world gone awry with body image, bullying, or other  issues that crush their very souls.

I watched as my baby- my son –  held his best childhood friend – his Panda, as she quietly slipped away. I wept over her. I wept more for him. I wept even more knowing that both of them would be gone soon. She forever, and he for his new life.

It was a sign of the emptiness to come.

They call it “empty nest” I call it “empty heart.” 

pandas last dayWe pray, we cry, we hurt, we laugh. The emotions never end, they just morph into a different relationship as the baby – the boy – becomes a man.

We are proud.

And we are not alone.  We have each other – suffering humanity gets it. Mostly, we have God.

God also has a son. He watched as his baby nursed, cried, laughed, ate, and was cuddled by a loving mother. He watched him take his first steps.

Steps that lead to the cross.

He watched his baby die.

God knows that our job isn’t for wimps. He’s not a wimp.

But with God as our Wingman, we also can fly.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” I John 4:9

God in a Wishing Well

Most of us have heard the statement at one time or another about not putting God in a “box” when talking about answered prayer, or how he moves, or in reference  to  not always understanding his magnificent ways. Yet, we think nothing of putting God in a box in defense of our own personal dogmas, doctrines, or beliefs – or better yet – in a wishing well.well 2   I have heard it said more times than I care to admit that we don’t need to “interpret the bible” we just need to read it and it interprets itself. Really? Then how is it according to one poll I read, that we have over 3,500  “Christian” denominations, not including non-denominational churches. Everyone has an “interpretation” of sorts, some fall more closely alongside other acceptable  beliefs such as the Nicene Creed. I personally like to agree based on the simplicity of the Nicene Creed and leave much of the other doctrines, dogmas, or beliefs on an agree to disagree basis. In reality, I don’t even feel the need to agree to disagree, but prefer to learn from others what they believe, seeking as much as possible a common ground in an interested, silent, teachable posture. Nicene_Creed_-635x763 For some denominations or fellowships, even the word church, denomination, or fellowship brings forth differing opinions. Whether or not we baptize, how we baptize – by submersion or sprinkling, what constitutes regeneration, whether sanctification happens at salvation or is a process, whether or not we can lose our salvation, if we can know for sure we are “saved,”  and whether or not saved or born again are valid biblical uses of the terms are a sampling of  a few fundamental differences. I won’t even touch on women’s issues, biblical submission (which includes slavery but it’s always left out of the context of submission) or church leadership.

Whoa.

From there we can branch into what constitutes holiness, how, when, and in what form the Holy Spirit manifests himself/” herself”, right on to whether or not a Christian should drink, tattoo,  and on, and on, and on…tatoo 1       All using a “biblical” precedence their opinions. Opinions. I hold to certain opinions – not doctrines, truths, or dogmas – simply opinions. I am not a theologian, or a bible scholar, (though I am very well read and scholarly) and if I were, it wouldn’t change my opinion that we need to learn how to become more humble – better listeners – better learners – better friends – and better humans.

The presumption that each one of us is completely right in our doctrines shows an absence of humility. My “truths” may be wrong. I am only human. I see through a glass darkly.  My truth is named Jesus.  I don’t hold to any others. Worship. People leave churches over worship. To loud, too calm – the spirit isn’t moving – the flesh is evident – too many psalms, too much contemporary. God is present. The devil is present. They raise their hands. They don’t raise their hands. All preferences. All opinions. All needed to meet the people God has called to serve Him with purity of heart.

That is the point – worship that flows from the heart of all of us, to Jesus.  Not to the rock band.  Not to the title of “Rock of Ages. To the Rock. To Jesus. June 2014 Micaiah J Grubb 488 Ah, but I have the Holy Spirit and he leads us into ALL truths.  Then what do I do with the Holy Spirit which led us into a cult?  We served with our whole hearts then. I was willing to die for my “doctrines.” My child did die as a result of those doctrines – no matter how accidental or unintentional. We made a huge mistake based on “doctrinal truth.” It was a wrong doctrine that we believed with all our hearts.

Wishing well Christianity.

We all drop the bucket into the well and pull out the doctrines we choose to believe are “truth.”  We back it up with scripture. The same scriptures someone else used to argue their opposing views. We don’t put God in a box, we put him in the wishing well of our belief system and then we judge those who don’t pull out the same bucketful. They are not drinking from the true well.  Their bucket is tainted by the wrong wood or was made by the wrong carpenter. woman at the well Jesus also stood at a well. And he blasted out of the water every sense of conformity that Jewish custom held to. He equalized the position of a Samaritan woman when he offered her himself – the living water.  A Jew, spoke to an unclean, adulterous woman – alone! She drew forth a bucket of FREEDOM to follow God in His unconditional love and acceptance.

Only love and acceptance can change us into the image of the Son. Only knowing our place of right standing is secure – and nothing we can ever do can separate us if we truly love Him and call upon Him. We are not accepted for our doctrines, dogmas, or beliefs. We are accepted because of His sacrificial love.

We are accepted because He first loved us, and He loves us still.