Grace is a dynamic force that does more than affect our standing with God by crediting us with righteousness, Grace affects our experience as well … Grace is a way of life.
Your worst days are never so bad that you’re beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you’re beyond the need of God’s grace.
Grace is offensive because she is willing to be abused. Cheap Grace, they call her. But still she comes. Insurance policy salvation is still salvation, it’s just a pathetically impoverished way to live with Grace. There’s so much more she’d like to show you! But she’s not waiting for you to prove the slightest thing. The gift Grace brings was bought by another.
Because of Jesus, Grace comes freely. She comes with a simple profession of faith…and when she shows up, she comes fully sufficient and mighty to save.
The New Attack on Grace | Common Grounds Online
Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight. And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning. Commitment is not sustained by confusion but by insight. The person who is uninformed or confused will inevitably be unstable and vulnerable in action, thought and feeling.
– Dallas Willard (in Hearing God)
Assuming Positive Intent
This week’s quote is posted one day later. I am glad about it because I found the following neat story only this morning.
It’s the story of a “thoughtlessly scratched out a 30-second card” on Mother’s Day, which was very disappointing; … until the real reason came to light. I only quote a part of the conclusion:
Aidan’s card reminded me of something I learned about relationships from a counselor. Good family relationships are ones where each member assumes positive intent. Assuming positive intent is a relational term that means we don’t automatically jump to negative conclusions about the people in our lives. We give them the benefit of the doubt, even when the evidence might point otherwise.
This reminds me of what I called: “creating space for imperfect attempts of doing new things” in my post on Belonging and Appreciation. Both are an expression of GRACE.
Have a great week and times where you extend and receive grace!
Why do so many enjoy striving for God’s acceptance, even after he went to such lengths to prove it was already ours? Perhaps they feel more secure if they think they can control the relationship. Perhaps they’re afraid that if they no longer have to earn his acceptance they’ll find themselves using grace as an excuse to pursue their selfish desires. Perhaps they don’t want a relationship with him at all, they simply want his help when they hurt and the coveted get-out-of-hell-free card.”
If you have never known the joy of simply living in God’s acceptance instead of trying to earn it, your most exciting days in Christ are ahead of you. People who learn to live out of a genuine love relationship with the God of the universe will live in more power, more joy, and more righteousness than anyone motivated by fear of his judgment.”
From the chapter: “Trying to earn points with somebody who is no longer keeping score” in “He loves me!” by Wayne Jacobson
The story where Jesus talked to the “businessman” (Lk 18:18ff) – who had asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life, and who then turned away sadly – don’t we usual think it’s all about dedication and that he did not want to let go of his fortune? And in sermons, is it not the most common application of this story, to ask what are our “idols” that we don’t want to let go of, and that keep us from following Jesus wholeheartedly?
When I read how Wayne Jacobsen interprets the story, I felt like banging my forehead and saying: “Of course! Why did I not think of it myself?” This makes much more sense than many other attempts of explanation.
Jesus was not interested in the businessman giving away all his property in order to prove his dedication, but Jesus rather wanted to give him an impossible condition. In the hope that he will finally realize that he can’t receive eternal life through “DOING.” – His questions was: “What must I DO?” When Jesus pointed to the law – “I have DONE all that.” Really? Is this possible? Nobody can fulfill the whole law and it’s purpose was exactly that – showing people that it can’t be done. Unfortunately, the businessman (and so many of us) are so busy with DOING the right thing, that we don’t notice, that Jesus was about something else. He wanted to shake him up and lead him to the realization that the eternal life can’t be bought (neither with money nor with DOING). Jesus wanted to free him from the bondage of performance. He just wanted his (and our) admission that we can’t make it. Regrettably, the businessman did not catch on to it and turned away saddened.
Shortly after that I heard a sermon about the Beatitudes (Mt 5). In this context the remark was made that “Jesus radicalized the law.” Again I had the same reaction <bang my forehead> “Of course! What else?” When Jesus said things like, for example, that we are subject to judgment even if we just get angry at a brother, we easily read these statements as requirements for salvation, we feel guilty and try to reinterpret or rationalize these sayings, because “really, nobody can measure up to this standard.” Right! We can’t. This was exactly the point Jesus tried to make. This is why he had to come to fulfill the law for us. What we are missing is often the honest admission: I can’t do it!
The man understood the lesson, but missed the point. Jesus wasn’t trying to be mean to him. He raised the bar beyond the man’s ability to get over it precisely because Jesus wanted him to stop trying. The gift he offered the man was to be free of the incredible burden of having to earn God’s love by his own efforts. He was caught in his own doing and Jesus was trying to free him.
He was hoping the young man would look him in the eye and say, ‘I can’t do that!’ To which Jesus might have answered ‘Good, then stop doing all the other silly things you’re trying to do to earn God’s favor. Stop striving, stop pretending, stop trying to earn that which you can never earn!’
We cannot earn God’s love and acceptance. He gives them to us in Jesus as a gift. One-hundred-ten-percent, as my grandfather would say. We only make our lives more difficult when we continue in this performance orientation. Even if it is “just” the thinking, that we have been saved by grace but now we need to prove that we were worth it.
For quite some time I wanted to give you an update but could not find the energy to do it. God is at work for which I am truly thankful. Two weeks ago we had our annual women’s retreat and the team who had come has been a wonderful blessing. I really enjoyed it, but at the same time I was often tired and had to skip some of the program.
Several of the learning processes I wanted to share with you in the following are connected to things said, prayed and even sung over me during this weekend (the team sang the theme song over me as a special blessing – Prov 3:5-6). As Adela, our retreat speaker, said, the weekend was probably a turning point. I am on the road to recovery, but it seems a very long road and I am advancing only slowly. Shortly after the weekend I also had my first online conversation with Karen. I knew her from a workshop a few years back and her insights and advice were very helpful.
So what is God teaching me?
- The first important insight was the importance of being secure in God’s love. “The powers of darkness fear those most that are confident and secure in God’s love.” – I realized that this is something which was part of last year’s healing to an extent I would not have dreamt of. Yes, I am secure in God’s love, I know that he loves me without conditions and that there is no condemnation no matter how much I fall short of perfection. If I had not had this security during the last weeks and months, I might have already left the country. It gave me an additional strength I was not even aware of. The attacks could not hit me with their full force.
- While praying for me, Adela had the impression that all these problems of the last time are a preparation and purification for a future ministry. This was maybe the most crucial insight. Not only did it answer my main question of the last months – how should I interpret this accumulation of problems and stress – it also gave me a new perspective. The problems might be due to Satan’s attacks but they are also part of God’s training program. This goes a step further than saying God will use it for good, because it tells me that there is purpose in it.
- Based on this insight I realized that dealing with multiple problems at once are my weak point. I have never been very good in multitasking especially when I felt assailed by too many things at once. God is teaching me now how to do it, and not in my strength but in his.
- Karen asked me among other things what I am telling myself in these situations. I realized that I unconsciously told myself: I can’t handle it anymore, it is too much, it’s not fair, – and eventually – I don’t want anymore, I don’t want to go on like this. This unwillingness to deal with multiple problems prevented me from living out of God’s grace and strength. Now I am slowly learning in these situations to call on the Lord and trust that his strength is perfect in my weakness when I feel overwhelmed. It’s amazing what difference this self-talk can make.
- It was also very helpful that by looking at my prayer mails Karen was able to identify at least four major losses and a long list of stressors (26 and still counting). So the question was if I had grieved these losses. I had not. This was part of my recovery work during the last weeks, for example, by writing a good-bye letter to Fatomata, who had died in July.
- Karen also gave me an article from Henri Nouwen which provided valuable input. This article underlined for me the need to let go and let God work it out (parable of the river), stop trying to control things, which is hard when you feel so much out of control, tossed around by circumstances like a ball. I also realized that I had accumulated a lot of resentment, towards all these circumstances and the people involved in it. I still need to work through these points. Interestingly enough, there was no resentment about the accident itself. Through this article I realized that because I felt so much gratitude about God’s intervention on the day of the accident, that there was no room for resentment. Gratitude is an antidote to resentment.
- Last weekend I finished listening to the “Sacred Romance” (audio book). One paragraph was especially significant for me: about God using warfare to draw us into closer communion with himself. In a way it underlines some of the above insights. There is warfare, but not because God is not in control or because I have not resisted the enemy enough. The author goes on to say:
“Warfare begins to feel different. The whole thing is not about Satan. It’s about communion with God, abiding in Jesus. The issue is to keep focused on God’s goodness instead of being obsessed with the enemy and his attacks. The only reason to focus on the enemy is to rebuke his lies.” (my paraphrase)
- This audiobook also reminded me of James 1 – trials are a reason for pure joy, because God uses them to grow in intimacy. Or as the Life Model puts it – to grow in maturity. This was a reminder of what God had spoken to me a few months ago. How quickly did I forget!
- Being instead of Doing: That was a topic I had often meditated about in summer. I often wondered if all the problems that kept me from doing what I was supposed to do was a lesson in Being? This seems to be reinforced now through the article from Nouwen. We need to trust that ministry is not so much what we do but the power that flows from us when we abide in Christ.
So now I am learning to put all these insights into praxis. The last weeks were definitely a training ground in patience. Right now I am basically learning to do nothing, except listening to the Lord, and resting in him in all kinds of problems, including my lack of energy. It means total dependence, because I never know when I will have enough energy to do something.
Last week provided ample opportunity for putting things into praxis: On Tuesday I got the car back from the garage that had painted it. On Wednesday I had planned to have the very last repair done, only to discover three more problems that need taking care of. Plus I had problems with the police twice (not my fault). This was a lot of stress all in one day (or actually half a day), but I was thankful to see that I was able to handle it fairly well. On the other hand, the next two days I was too exhausted to do anything. Saturday I worked on resolving one of the three new problems, only to discover yet another one when I was again stopped by the police – two days ago darkened car windows have become illegal here. While I am writing (Saturday) a mechanic is working to take them off. This means less protection from the sun for us and our shopping. I still find it difficult to accept these adversities as a normal part of life. I guess this is part of what I have to learn. I was always waiting for life to become “normal” again, meaning with no or fewer problems. But as a friend said: ‘Normal’ is only a setting on the dryer.
Some time ago I decided that I should probably stay in the capital for two more weeks after the car repairs are finished. For the moment it is too early to say if this will be enough to completely recover. Or if the Lord wants me to keep going despite my weakness. It’s a difficult balance. Therefore you can praise God for all he is teaching me, but also pray for my continued recovery and wisdom to know when it is time to move on. Thanks again for letting me share with you.