Grace Enough

Recently I’ve been reminded that there is no formula for approaching God. I used to think I had to have it all together before I dared to draw near the Almighty. As if.

I used to think I had to prepare my heart before entering His presence, weeding out all the garbage so I would be clean enough to enter the foyer of the Kingdom. I used to look at my heart and hope that it would somehow fly beneath the radar of holiness allowing me to slip near God undetected.

Much like the woman in Luke 8 who reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, I thought I could somehow steal near enough to grasp a bit of God-life without being noticed. Without having others stare. Without having God look at me and know I was there, in all of my bleeding, gaping brokenness. Because if He saw me attempting to hone in on His power – me, with all my sins and failures – I feared I would be rejected.

The fact is, I can never reach the point of being “good enough” for God. I can never be holy, or righteous, or blameless to the extent that I would ever deserve to approach Him.

And yet, I can.

I CAN.

Because the Gospel message is a shattering of all the formulas. It flies in the face of all man-made expectations. Our feeble attempts to somehow work our way into God’s favor. There are not enough keys to spiritual discipline that will guarantee us the right to be called His children. There’s no number of prayers or acts of contrition that will pay the price of our penance. There are no 12-step programs in the Kingdom of God – and there’s definitely no way any of us can stay “anonymous.”

There’s only GRACE.

The grace of a God majestic enough to enclose all of heaven and earth in His eternal hand, yet merciful enough to reach into that same hand and carve my name upon it. For keeps.

The Gospel is a message of love large enough to cover the empty broken of this whole, wide world, yet personal enough to notice one trembling reach of desperation straining for a touch of the Master’s hem. And respond with healing for our chasms of aching need.

The message of grace is one that ripples across time and eternity, preparing the way before us so we can simply follow the trail and wind up in His mercy. With every step and breath of this life, we can move closer to His own. All it really takes from us is accepting the gift He extends and repositioning ourselves closer to the One who extends it.

In short, the message of the Cross is a story of a Savior who died to make us enough.

Who defeated death to give us Life.

Even when we weren’t good.

If you’re struggling to believe you deserve all the grace God has to offer, you can stop struggling. It’s fact. You can’t.

You can NEVER be good enough to deserve the life that Jesus came to give… but you can have it anyway.

Because it was never yours to earn; it’s only yours to receive. No matter how broken, weary, or hopeless you may be. No matter that the world has told you there’s no way you can ever be made whole.

Truth is, His grace is enough. And if you reach out and take it from the nail-scarred hand that is offering it, you may just find your name inscribed there. There, beneath the blood stains of a life poured out to set you free.

Free to walk in the grace that is yours because God says you are enough.

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At the Foot of the “Cross”ing Over

“Let us cross over to the other side of the lake. “

Such an unassuming statement.

But it is safe to assume that no statement is unassuming when spoken by the mouth of Jesus. Instead, this particular suggestion to “cross over” was the launchpad for a chain of miraculous events leading to one of my all-time favorite Bible stories.

For starters, a relatively simple journey across the Sea of Galilee turned into a stormy adventure that nearly capsized a boatload of seasoned fisherman. If it weren’t for the calming voice of the Calmer of the Seas, this tale may have taken a turn for the worse and ended with the drowning of the boat’s occupants. Thankfully, God had further plans for this motley crew and delivered them safely to the shore of the Gadarenes (or Gerasenes, depending upon translation).

While the miraculous delivery from a raging tempest makes for a great story, it is not today’s primary focus. My purpose is to draw your attention to Jesus’ interaction with one, lone man. A man so bound by Satan that he was driven to live naked and tormented among the tombs of the dead. One man, held captive by the forces of darkness, banished to live in solitude and misery. One man who encountered a Savior who deemed it necessary to “cross over to the other side” and set a prisoner free.

One man for whom Jesus went out of His way.

And it changed his life.

Forever.

With one word from the Lord, a legion of demons was transferred into a passel of pigs. And a man, once driven insane by the powers of darkness, was catapulted into the light of the Kingdom of God. Transformed by the Shaper of Souls. Destined to new beginnings.

New Life.

While a herd of demon-possessed swine hurling themselves to their death in the lake was what initially drew the attention of the surrounding community, the people were even more startled to see the man who had once been naked and crazed now sitting peacefully at the feet of Jesus. Fully clothed and in his right mind.

Completely. Totally. Healed.

All because Jesus was determined to “cross over to the other side” for him.

Today I am reminded of the fact that Jesus is still in the business of “crossing over.” And I’m thankful that He does so for the likes of me.

I have a Savior who is willing to go out of His way for me, even knowing that He will not always be welcomed when He arrives. And I am grateful. I’m grateful to have a God who sees beyond the external life I portray to others and is not afraid to deal with my demons. Those things that hold me captive. Thoughts that torment me. Worries that keep me awake at night. Anxieties that compel me to act contrary to who I am created to be.

Jesus is purposeful in His dealings with mankind. He does nothing haphazardly. Nothing without divine intent. Even when we can’t see the end from our beginnings. There is a miracle in the making for each one who encounters the Word of God. There is a freedom coming. A day of deliverance.

A time to sit at the feet of Jesus and simply marvel at being a recipient of so much love.

May today be your day of freedom as you encounter the King of the Crossing Over.

And those demons that haunt you? Well, they are in for a mighty big surprise when they come up against the Savior of the world.

I sure hope they like bacon.

broken chains

The Mystery

Jesus,
You are
A paradox.
An enigma.
A mystery
I see in part
Tho’ I strain to view
The all.

Elusively playful,
Presenting more questions
Than answers.
So satisfyingly baffling,
Giving mere glimpses of the whole,
Leaving me yearning for more.
Pressing forward to piece together
The puzzling combinations of a God
Who completes me in every way,
Tho’ I am broken and powdered
As the dust from whence I came.

Seeing dimly,
I strain to view
The One who knows me fully
Yet invites me still to “Come.”
Open handed, You hold me tightly.
With gentleness, You love me fiercely.
Capturing my heart, You set me free
To walk in liberty by Your side.
Held firmly, yet released
To dance upon the heights,
I run with abandon in broad places.

You invite me to dinner
In the center of the battlefield.
Surrounded by foes,
Yet fully safe in Your care,
I am garrisoned and loosed
With the same spark
Of redeeming love that
Ignited my soul at the foot
Of a blood-stained cross.
With dying breath,
You give me life.
And as I die,
I too can live
This life of Mystery.

Hands placing last piece of a Puzzle

Almost Free

Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard,
Even when it all just falls apart,
I will run to You, ’cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul, Healer of my scars.
You steady my heart.
You steady my heart.

Over the past few days, these words from the song recorded by Kari Jobe have been playing on a continuous loop in my mind. After hearing this melody for the first time, my thoughts turned to the familiar lines from Psalm 57, My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.  And being the word freak that I am, I had to pull out my concordance and dig up the original Hebrew definition. In short, the meaning of steadfast is: to be erect (standing perpendicular); fixed; confident; prepared; ready.

Hmm… how often am I really steadfast in praising God? That’s the million dollar question. Unlike the psalmist who resolved to stand firm in the midst of all troubles, my heart is more likely to faint at the first whisperings of doubt. Instead of being wholly bent to give God praise, I’m more likely to bend under the weight of my fears or insecurities. Wavering, inconsistent, weakened, distracted – now those are words with which I can relate. And yet, God desires that I lean into Him and become resolute in trusting that He is the One who holds “each and every moment; what’s good and what gets broken.” In essence, He is continually inviting me to accept His invitation to steady my heart.

When I looked at the Free Online Dictionary definition of the word “steady,” it had the expected meanings that were similar to my concordance’s rendering for “steadfast”- firm in position or place; fixed; unfaltering; sure, etc. But one of the definitions listed gave me pause: Free or almost free from change, variation, or fluctuation.
Almost free.

Those words sprang from my computer screen and burrowed into my heart as I realized that, all too often, I live according to the world’s standard of freedom. I live in the spiritual condition of being almost free.

Instead of clinging to the truth of John 8:36 which states, Therefore; if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed, I settle for being almost free.  While I do allow God to steady my heart and fill me with His hope, I can’t say that I do so without stipulations. Without reservations. Without holding on to a few of those niggling doubts. I stop short of living God’s promise of complete freedom and fall for living the world’s lie of almost free, instead.

The sad realization is that Almost free = Still enslaved.

But I’m awakening to Satan’s schemes. While I may not yet be fully conscious, I’m not completely snoozing any longer, either. And in this state of awakening, I’m determined to accept the invitation that my Savior offers. The invitation to live with a heart free indeed because of His steadfast love and mercy. Free to love and be loved by the One who holds me in His hand and steadies my heart so I can steadfastly praise Him.
Even when it hurts.
Even when it’s hard.
Even when I’m tempted to believe that I am only almost free.