Banished by Grace

To have the knowledge of good and evil without the perfect judgment of a wise and all-knowing God is a dangerous thing.

To attempt to understand the truth of sin and of righteousness without the flawless mind of the Creator can lead to irrational and insufficient declarations of good and bad.

It’s no wonder God banished Adam and Eve from the garden once they had sampled the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To live in this muddled state of confusion forever would have been a disastrous story, indeed.

This is why a Savior was necessary — to repeal and to revoke the license of evil and to free us from an eternity of its presence hovering near.

Only a perfect God can sort through this delicate balance of good and evil perfectly.

Only a perfect Savior can ransom the souls of imperfect men perfectly.

This is why I now view Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden as an act of grace instead of an angry response from a frustrated Creator.

As I ponder the mercy extended alongside this exile, I can’t help but wonder how many other acts of grace have been granted me in this life. Acts of grace which I have mistakenly viewed as Father’s disappointment, or as disapproval, or as let downs seen as unanswered prayers.

Like Adam and Eve, my understanding is skewed from Father’s complete wisdom. That is why His grace poured out sometimes appears as neglect toward my desires when, in truth, that is never the case.

No matter how often I am tempted to believe otherwise, I am not left on my own. My Father notices every detail of the whole of creation, including each nuance of my seemingly insignificant life.

Not one breath is taken without His awareness.

Not one thought skips across my mind without capturing His attention.

And whether I believe it or not, not one prayer goes unanswered.

It’s just that sometimes the answer is simply grace.

A grace all too often misinterpreted by my faltering faith grasping for miracles of a different form.

While I still may wonder at the perfectness of a paradise with so many opportunities for human error, today I choose to see banishment as a blessing.

Some of my dreams banished . . .  for a better way.

Some longings displaced . . . for a higher purpose.

Some prayers left hanging . . .

Because grace has come.

Sometimes in disguise, but always present.

And always, always framed with Father’s perfect love.

Reopening the Gift of Grace: An Advent Devotional – Day Four

Grace.

This is a word well-known to Christians, summarized in the message of 2 Corinthians 5:21: For God made Christ who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

In essence, grace is God’s love in action toward men who deserved just the opposite of it. Dying to save your enemies is something most of us would never consider doing, yet that is what happened on the cross of Christ. That is God’s version of grace as found in Romans 5:6-11:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends with God.

Grace is a gift brought to us by Jesus.

While most everyone would admit the sentiment of grace is a marvelous thing, it remains merely a sentiment until it is experienced on a personal level. As Shauna Niequist writes in her book Savor: We dilute the beauty of the gospel story when we divorce it from our lives, our worlds, the words and images that God is writing right now on our souls. 

Grace is a gift that must be opened by the individual so as to experience the full wonder of its worth. When placed in personal perspective, the gift deepens and grows, drawing me to my knees and toward the heart of God in ways that mere words cannot prompt.

Not surprising, this gift of grace shows itself raw and real in my life. It has never been revealed as a neat, pretty package tied with brightly colored ribbons of perfect Scripture passages. No, the grace I’ve received comes stained with the remnants of my sin’s consequences still dripping alongside the gruesomeness of Calvary’s sacrifice. It is disheveled and muddied from wading through the depths of soiled soul, stretched to the maximum for grasping after this rebellious daughter. Dirty from clamoring into the pit of despair to rescue my wayward heart . . . again.

Yet for all its wear and tear, grace still remains the most beautiful of gifts. It’s offering of redemption still the most enchanting of contents. Perhaps because of its very willingness to become filthy and contaminated for me.

My life has seen some ugly moments. My choices have wounded and marred my Jesus-image beyond recognition far more times than I care to admit, But the gift of grace continues to come, delving into the deepest recesses of me to cover my sin while unveiling the deepest recesses of my Savior’s love.

Christ in me, the hope of glory. Glory beyond the smudged and broken. Glory rising with the grasp of grace stretching, reaching, drawing me out to draw me near. Uniting the best of the Godhead with the worst of humanity. With the worst of me. All so He can call me His friend.

Writing His love story upon my heart, gracious word by gracious word. Saving and delivering me daily and for keeps. That is the gift of grace at work.

So now I can rejoice in my wonderful new relationship with God because my Lord Jesus Christ has made me friends with God.

That is the gift of grace Jesus gives.

FOR REFLECTION
When you think on the word grace, do you naturally internalize it and recall the many ways it has been given to you? Or are you more likely to think of it in general terms?  Take some time to reopen the gift of grace today as you remember specific moments where you have experienced God’s unmerited favor in your life. If you are in Christ, you no longer have to live in fear of punishment, or death, or separation from God. Jesus came to draw you near to the Father’s heart. May you approach Him in humble worship as you thank Him for giving you access to His presence through the Messiah come.

You may want to listen to this song to set your heart in worship mode. He truly has done great things for you!

 

 

To Bleed God

I hail from Ohio, commonly referred to as the Buckeye State where folks “bleed scarlet and gray.” This reference comes from its inhabitants who are fiercely loyal to their Ohio State Buckeyes. In fact, I recently saw an online statistic claiming Ohio has the most loyal home state fans in all of the USA. Seriously, someone actually took the time to do a study which showed that, when it comes to college sports fans, every county in Ohio is dominated by Buckeye devotees.

In the wave of such astounding facts, I hesitate to admit that no one in my household follows OSU sports. While game days are set aside to be observed with grand fervor across Ohio, I couldn’t name one Buckeye player or coach, but I could come up with an endless list of loyal fans among my peers.

I live among people who “bleed scarlet and gray” no matter the final score of wins or losses or championships or not.

So when I read the following words in Jennie Allen’s book Anything, there was something that struck a chord. In reference to King David, she concluded:

He made so many terrible mistakes, and yet he bled God.

As I’ve pondered and mulled this statement like spiced cider in the recesses of my mind, I can’t help but find a longing to understand it more. To experience a walk with God that is so close, so intimate, that when I’m cut I bleed His lifeblood.

The more I thought about the life of David, with all his recorded strengths and weaknesses, the more I wanted to understand a heart labeled as one after God’s own. He made so many terrible mistakes, and yet he bled God. David’s heart was steadfast in seeking after the One who anointed him, even when his actions seemed contrary to his calling.

When David was overwhelmed by the enormity of his errors and their devastating consequences, God still managed to squeeze through the pores and crevices of his humanity. Coaxing him to return with a repentant heart, opening that heart to receive the healing balm of forgiveness.

Such is the work of God’s amazing grace.

We could easily label David many things, all of which would seem obviously true. Murderer. Disloyal. Lustful. Adulterer. Dishonorable. Prideful. Weak. Yet God called him a man after His own heart. A man filled with the Spirit of the living God, anointed to do His will (see Acts13:22).

Who but our heavenly Father could allow such horror to exist alongside the beauty without soaking in the marring of sin’s madness? Wounded to heal, David bled God and sought Him through each painful step of life. From shepherd boy turned refugee king, to ruling monarch. From the peak of grace and kindness extended to his enemy Saul, to the lowest depths of adultery and murder committed against one of his most devoted warriors. Yet God’s Spirit faithfully remained with David in each and every injustice – those both received and inflicted. From without and within.

In the story of this one life, we experience pinnacles of seemingly endless mercy diving into the depths of utter depravity. Yet God bleeds through it all. And therein lies hope for one such as I. A hope which tempts me to reach with blind faith, daring to believe God could bleed through me no matter how near or far I may seem from Him at any given moment.

The truth is, I have the royal blood of Calvary’s cross flowing steadily through my veins, despite the many times a transfusion seems necessary.

When the sin and the hurt cut to the quick, I have opportunity to receive healing. A healing that comes as His blood courses within, continually pumping life and love and forgiveness and redemption.

The full circle of a grace that is infinite yet complete.

From moments of prideful sin to humble contrition, I am held as David – simultaneously a seeker of self and seeker of the King of kings. Determined to hold onto my Father through both my wins and my losses as I bleed out the hope of His Son and bare the scars of nail-pierced hands to the depths of all I am.

I doubt I’ll ever turn into an avid college sports follower, so I’ll leave the bleeding of scarlet and gray to the diehard Buckeye fans.

But with everything in me, I’ll follow after Jesus and pray for a grace that bleeds God.

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