Responding to Grace - An Easter Sunday Follow-up

Oh to have had more time on Sunday to discuss the truth of God's grace, but the truth IS that grace is a mystery of God so deep and wide that it will take a lifetime to plumb its depths and span its width.  God's grace comes to us in moments of divine revelation that sometimes knock us off of our feet and onto our knees. And sometimes it gently nudges us as lightly as a kiss blown from fingertips.

God's grace so brightly portrayed on the cross is His saving grace.  This is the grace that He gave to lift the burden of our rebellion by forgiveness: forgiveness so generous that God not only forgives us of our wrong-doing, He takes away the eternal cost of that wrong doing.  Like receiving a pardon, God's grace restores our record and our reputation to it's pre-rebellion state.

But God's grace comes in so many other forms.  Sunshine.  I know, that sounds somewhat childlike to consider.  But wait a moment.  Think about sunshine and all the ways we benefit from it.  In hundreds of ways, everyday, we experience God's grace through the sun that shines on us and provides vitamin D for our health, photosynthesis for our fruits and vegetables, conduction to warm our planet, light to illuminate our way, and even energy to power this computer.  Sunshine = God's grace.  Thank you God for the warm sunshine that makes my light weight T-shirt so comfortable today. 

Grace is God's goodness provided on our behalf.  His saving grace.  His common grace.  His loving, compassionate grace.

God's grace restores us and our situation.  This is what we talked about this past Sunday in the experience of Peter at the Sea of Galilee after Christ's resurrection.  It takes our biggest failures and offers us transformation.  Grace takes our deepest regrets and shame and promises us a future with hope and prospect.  Grace takes our damage relationship with God and offers us a restoration which takes us ALL the way back to God's original plan for us.  That's good!

How then should we respond to grace?
1.  Be transformed.  We can't stop at being forgiven, we have to delve into the very situation that we have marked a failure and be transformed.  Use it for good.  Learn from it.  Grow from it.  Help others from it.  Put down a stake in our spirit that will anchor us for future living in God's grace.
2.  Be productive.  If God is giving us a future and purpose in that future, we need to pursue that prospective occupation.  Get educated.  Get experience under a mentor.  Get equipped by the Holy Spirit.  Get going (to the very ends of the earth to make disciples).
3.  Be close to God.  God has moved close to us.  We need to stop moving away from Him and into our own ego-feeding, pleasure pursuing, treasure hoarding activities; and start devoting time to God seeking, God honoring, God sharing life (in all of its true fullness).

God is offering...

I like this hymn.
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee. 
(Frances R. Havergal, February1874)
Click here to hear the Easter message, "A Guy Named Peter"


Random Dissonance - Color

"Depression is something that makes you lose your sight."   Michael Schenker
Spring is one of my favorite times of year.  Since one of the things that helps me feel centered and balanced is gardening, it makes sense that I should enjoy the blooming season.  This Spring, for the first time ever, I have successfully produced a crocus bloom in my garden.  (I really live in the wrong region for crocus to flourish.)  But the elements worked together in perfect harmony with the dna of the crocus bulb to produce a flurry of early Spring purple near the front walk of our home. 

As I sit typing today, Spring is nearly in full swing.  My Mayberry, USA is an agricultural town surrounded by fruit and nut trees.  And for a couple of weeks each year we are swathed with the pink and white blooms of almond, peach, nectarine, and cherry trees.  I have often wondered if from above, it might appear that our town is floating in a pond of blossoms. 

With a deep sense of admiration for blooming trees, I have planted 2 in my front yard, and planned the timing of their bloom to last into the early mid Summer.  Even our larger shade tree, which does not bloom, begins it's leaf season in a blaze of bright red infant foliage.  Spring color is in one sense the reward for a yard carefully planned, consistently cared for, and attentively nurtured.  Looking out the window into our yard, my vision is today bathed in blue, purple, pink, white, red, yellow, and coral.  Happy Spring to me.

Last Spring, deeply entrenched in the barrage of my emotional tempest, this visage of color had no affect on me.  Every bloom felt grey or brown.  Just as nearly every experience of my very blessed life had seemingly been reduced to it fundamental operation, Spring had been reduced to the change of temperature, which would mean little more than changing the household thermostat and needing to mow the lawn with more regularity in order to prevent my suburban castle from being "that house" on the block.

Realizing then that my life had become a colorless landscape of brownish greys and greyish browns, I considered a serious breech of my previous commitment to hide my malaise at all cost.  I began to think that the convergence of causes for my depression had surrendered to physiology.  There is a saying in psychology that I have not forgotten since my college days.  "Neurons that fire together, wire together."  A purposely obvious play on the axiom about family prayer, the saying points out that in the human brain, stimulus that is repeated over time creates a well-worn pathway in the brain, which will replace the previous "normal" pathway for brain functions.  In other words, if you do (or feel) something repeatedly for a long enough period of time, it becomes your new normal.  This is how we form habits.  (It is the key to breaking habits too!)  But it has a more insidious meaning for those who experience depression.  If you stay depressed long enough, those emotional pathways in the brain will become your new normal.  Your brain will travel those neuron highways regularly and you will suffer what is called "clinical depression."  I was taught that a person who has a normal depression that lasts for 6 months is in the risk zone for becoming medically depressed and needs the help of pharmaceutical therapy.  It had been nearly 15 months for me and I was ready to call the Dr.  It seemed that a life on prozac, lithium, or celebrex couldn't be any worse than the colorless post-storm life that I had settled into. And truthfully, it would have been better (should it have come to that).

This for me was a deeply humbling moment.  I had lost.  I had reached the end of me and had found myself wanting.  In a world where I had always had a way out and a vision of the vibrantly colorful "good" that hovers just below the surface of every dark and colorless challenge or struggle, I had become color blind.  My stiff upper lip, my determination to muscle my way through it alone, my rehearsed prayers, my desperate prayers, my self-diagnosis:  all the best of my efforts came to nothing.  They came to nothing, and I admitted defeat.

This experience is not new to me (reaching the end of myself...).  I had a similar experience when I met my wife.  My beautifully crafted plan for finding God's ideal woman for me seemed perfectly logical and attainable given the right amount of effort, accompanied by doses of prayer and wise counsel on my part.  At 25 I was at the end my efforts again and gave up.  THEN, THEN, God brought the beautiful wife of my youth into my life.  Though I had been a close friend of her  brother for nearly a year, been in her home on many occasions, met every other member of her family, it was not until I had admitted defeat that God opened the door of His will to me.

And so it was with the storm that turned my technicolor life into sepia.  No matter how well I prayed, no matter what effort I put into the healing process, no matter how strong my self-will, I would not receive God's healing until I had come to the end of myself.  And so it was one Thursday in October.  When I had reached the end of myself, God was there!  And like Dorothy landing in Oz, color!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-9)
(Take some time and read all of Proverbs 3 - There's a lot of incredible wisdom and spiritual insight recorded there.)

  © Blogger template Brooklyn by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP