Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Falling Off the Grace Wagon

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
Romans 5:20 (MSG)

You often hear of people with vices "falling off the wagon" meaning they return back to their vice (such as alcohol) after giving it up for a time. So does "falling off the grace wagon" even make sense?  I mean, grace is certainly not a vice.  Follow me here and let's see if we can make a case for this.  

There have been times in my life that I have given up on the grace of God.  That sounds harsh for someone who loves the Lord and in all honesty, it is harsh.  It's plain ridiculous too. When I say I "gave up" what I mean is, I simply gave it no thought.  I took it for granted.  I acted as though it didn't even exist.  I called Him a liar by acting and talking as though I had no hope.  I would rant and rave, cry and question, worry and give up.  I would wallow in the thoughts of past sins that I had already repented for.  I would assume that He couldn't use me in a mighty way...because of my past.  Pile current sins on top of that and you can imagine what a mess I have been.

I love what Romans 5:20 in The Message says about the "aggressive forgiveness we call grace".  Sin crouches at our door, ready to pounce on us.  It calls to us.  Seduces us from behind a shroud of temporary gratification.  Faithlessness is certainly sin too.  Hopelessness is sin.  A lack of trust in the sin.  Those sins come in more like a tsunami.  Overwhelming us.  Sweeping us out to sea.  Drowning us in a wave polluted with hurtful debris.  Isolating us from our source of life.  In both cases, those sins (vices) are all aggressive in seeking us out as their prey/victims.  Yet Romans 5:20 is telling us that God's grace is even more aggressive.  It wins out every time.  It goes beyond the farthest reaching points of our sin.  Sin offers us death.  Grace offers us life through the Blood of Jesus Christ.

This is certainly not a grace that should be taken lightly.  No, taking it for granted is spitting in the face of Jesus.  How precious is the grace that was made possible through the Blood of Jesus.  Kay Arthur, in one of her teachings in the Anointed, Transformed and Redeemed bible study, talks about how grace is previous.  Before the days of the Earth.  Before you and me, God determined that He would send His only Son as the blood sacrifice for my sins.  For your sins.  For our children's sins when they are 10...17...34...even 80.  Yes, before the days of the Earth, He was already showing incredible grace by preparing a way for us to be reconciled with Him.  He knew Adam and Eve would fall to sin.  He knew I would become rebellious, foul-mouthed, cold-hearted, angry, a gossiper, addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol and lustful.  Nothing I did, nothing you've done, surprised him.  He was ready and waiting for us.  He had already started extending grace to us before we ever breathed our first breath.

Grace is not something you can cover in a blog.  It's so wide.  I dare not attempt to try and say all that is in my heart towards God's grace.  Our pastor has been teaching on grace and it has been wonderful for me.  We can never fool ourselves into thinking that we have a complete grasp on something as large as God's grace.  Hearing the messages and reading more about it in the Word has heightened my awareness of it.  I'm just so thankful that 11 years ago, I came face-to-face with His grace as He reached down and took my hand, pulling me from the pit I had been living in.  I'm thankful that today, He takes my hand over and over again and pulls me out of the tsunamis of life.  Yes, I have fallen off the grace wagon.  I have taken back up my love of His grace.  I live in it.  I walk in it.  I breathe it.  I enjoy it.  Tell me, have you fallen off the grace wagon or are you still holding out for "something better"? 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

He Spoke And Then He Moved

I'm an Amplified Bible kind of girl.  So much so that my life group will not allow me to read our study scriptures out loud for time purposes.  They always say, "Will someone, besides Shannon, read Psalm 37..."  I personally feel they are missing out on the depth of each scripture by reading their "cliff note" versions, but I suppose they have a point about the whole time issue.

Yesterday I was sitting in the "pick up" line at my sons school.  I'm one of those that gets there about 30 - 45 minutes early so that I'm one of the first ones in line.  This gives me time to read, balance my checkbook, knit a blanket, etc.  I've been in a bit of a twirling storm the past few weeks.  The enemy has thrown so many "below the waist" punches at me.  You know what I'm talking about, those low, "I know he did not just go there" punches.  This, of course, all started after I taught on The Heart of a Warrior.  He is certainly angry about the Word that went forth and the lives that were changed from it.  We know that the Word will do what it sets out to do.  So he lost there and thought he would direct his attack to me.  I've been battling.  A lot of days I win.  Some times I get knocked down but praise the Lord for the His strength that enables me to get back up.

I was able to pick up my son from school because I am recovering from a medical procedure that is part of his latest "attempt" on my life.  I was feeling a little weak and knew that I needed some Word for encouragement and strength.  After all, I'm getting ready to deliver the warrior teaching to our youth group next week.  I certainly don't expect him to go down without a fight.  So I opened my bible to Psalm 37.  The words became like a cool drink of water to me.  They were soothing to my soul.

3 Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.
4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.
6 And He will make your uprightness and right standing with God go forth as the light, and your justice and right as [the shining sun of] the noonday.
7 Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass.

I was so drawn to these verses.  The Lord began to speak to me so deeply.  I loved, loved, loved the part in verse 3 that says, "and feed surely on His faithfulness".  That very moment I imagined myself feasting at the table of the Lord and getting so full.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's like sitting down at Grandma's Sunday lunch table.  You get so full you have to unbutton your pants...but you hate to stop eating because it's so good and you won't get to eat that way again for another week or so.  I love how His table never runs out.  I can just stay right there and rest in Him and continue to feast.  There's always a place for me at His table.  The sweet aroma of His goodness continues to draw me there.  Yesterday, in that car line...He drew me in with the sweetness of His love and promises.

He continued to speak to me about rolling my cares/load over on Him.  That was huge for me considering the challenges I have faced and continue to eyeball.  At one point He said, "Just lean on me honey."  The word trust continued to jump off the page at me.  As I type this, it is ministering to me.  He just wants us to trust Him.  Why do we keep forgetting or refusing to do that.  He is utterly trustworthy.  Why in the world would I doubt Him?  Why do you doubt Him?  As we wait on Him patiently.  He will certainly move on our behalf.  He will move heaven and earth on our behalf.  Verse 4 reassures us that we can be delighted in Him because He knows our secret petitions and the desires of our hearts.  Even those things we've not uttered to anyone...not even our momma.  He knows them.  When we wait on Him, delight ourselves in Him, put our trust in Him, and commit ourselves to Him...we find that our desires line up with His and He begins to meet those by one. 

He was speaking to me greatly yesterday through these passages.  He was speaking encouragement for what had already happened and strength/delight in what was about to happen.  He spoke to me...and then He moved.  Within hours of Him speaking through these verses, He began opening doors to the desires of my heart (one of those great big desires that you're not sure will ever really happen).  It just came out of the blue.  It's a bit overwhelming.  Unexpected.  It is something we must approach with faith and wisdom....and absolute humility.  But I know that I can lean on Him, trust Him to work it all out because my Daddy took the time to speak to me before He moved.  Just another testament to His faithfulness.