Grace Isn’t Mercy #fb

Grace is a subject inexhaustible. A well whose depths we could never hope to fully plumb, a tower so high we could never hope to scale its heights. Perhaps then it’s easier to begin a post on grace by stating what it isn’t:

Grace isn’t mercy.

Mercy, for the purposes of discussion here, is simply the withholding of something deserved. For instance, let’s say you’ve been pulled over by one of our boys in blue for speeding. Both you, and he, know you deserve that ticket. You were speeding. Instead, the officer lets you off with a warning. You’ve just received mercy. A deserved consequence has been withheld.

How would grace play play out in a similar situation (for the sake of argument, please bear with me here)? You were speeding in your battered, beaten old Chevy. You stop. The officer approaches your car. You figure you’re going to get a ticket for sure. You’re not getting out of this one. When the cop asks you to exit your vehicle, you know you’re toast.

And then…

Not only does he give you a warning, he also hands you to the keys to his supercharged Dodge Charger. He says it’s yours, and to go on your way. You deserved a ticket, and instead got a new car!

That’s grace, my friends. Erstwhile theologians the Newsboys put it this way:

“When we don’t get what we deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Mercy).

“When get what we don’t deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Grace).

Put another way, and let’s say you’re a parent, the difference between mercy and grace is the difference between merely withholding a deserved consequence from your child (mercy), and instead bearing that consequence yourself–and then taking your kid out for ice cream! While the two go hand-in-hand, there’s nevertheless a vast divide betwixt them. As defined by the theologians, grace is “the unmerited, unearned favor of God.” We did nothing to earn it, nothing to deserve it, and yet He pours it out upon us.

Why?

Because Jesus.

Not only did He take our deserved punishment on the cross, He now pours out unearned, unmerited blessings upon us. Like the example above, we deserved a ticket, and instead got the new car.

All we have to do is believe.

The late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein coined the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Respectfully, Mr. Heinlein I disagree. There is, and it’s called Christianity. Specifically, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” All who call upon His name shall be saved.

Have you called upon His Name today? Have you experienced His grace?

You can–if you will but believe.

Thanks for reading!

Inexorable/Ineffable/Joy

Beating our fists bloody at inexorable air, trying to defy the passage of time, we find–at the end of the line–our bodies, our hearts, our minds

Fail

As we decline into that good night.

Our rage a peripatetic fit, the fight unwinnable…

Until:

The inexorable slide is swallowed up in the tide of the grace of an ineffable God.

Our bodies made new, our minds renewed:

Free at last from sin’s crimson stains, the mortal takes on immortality

Only joy remains

Only joy.

Time, Wounds, & Healing

'India - Chennai - Inspirational wall slogans 06' photo (c) 2009, McKay Savage - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There is an adage which states “time heals all wounds.” Problem is, it’s simply not true. The mere passage of time itself does nothing to heal hurts. Cuts and scrapes scab over, crust, and fade into scars.

But time did nothing to heal. Time is simply the yardstick by which we measure the progress of the healing abilities built by God into our magnificent bodies. Our bodies, once wounded, did what they are supposed to do: heal.

Would that it were the same for wounds of the soul. For the hurts that are mental, emotional, and spiritual in nature. Unfortunately, these wounds do nothing to heal themselves. Like the body, when it is too injured to heal itself, something more is required. For a wound which is too deep or penetrating for the natural healing abilities to go  work on, this may mean surgery.

A wound made for the express purpose of healing another hurt.

In the case of hurts not physical in nature, this means emotional, mental, or spiritual surgery under the guidance of God through skilled practitioner of those fields. What it takes is courage. Courage, and vulnerability, to plunge into those wounded placed in our souls.
We often don’t want to go there, back into those wounded places, those tender spots. Yet we wonder why the healing we desperately crave isn’t forthcoming. It’s because, through sheer avoidance, we hold onto those hurts, nursing them.

Using them as walls around our hearts.

Thing is, if we are His, He will find ways to take us back to those places. Because God is faithful parent, He loves is enough to not leave us as we are. We just have to willing, and vulnerable, enough to do the work.

It isn’t time, though it may possibly bring the perspective of distance, that heals. In fact, wounds left untreated often fester. And it is these wounds which we hide, hold onto, or otherwise deny that do fester. Not into boils, sores, or pustules, but rather the gangrene of the soul: bitterness, unforgiveness, and other toxic maladies… leaving us with a kind of Leprosy of of the heart: callous, unfeeling, rotten, and cold.

It is time+work+willingness to confront the unpleasantness which lies within which=healing. Like our bodies sometimes need surgery, even more often do our souls.

What do you think? Share in the comments below.

All I Can Do

The last year and a half has been a tumultuous time for my family and I (to say the least). Soaring victory was followed by agonizing defeat. And to add insult to injury, my wife’s health took a turn.

Needless to say, we were left reeling, shaken, wondering which end is up…

“Finding my way back to sanity again”

Thankfully, Lisa’s health has turned around. Even so, after holding it together for so long, being strong, I had a breakdown of sorts a few weeks ago.

“I don’t really know what I’m gonna do when I get there”

Have you been there? So whipped, and wiped, you just didn’t care? It took me by surprise to find that, yes, I’m just a man afterall–incredibly weak, frail, and small.

“Gracefully fall back to the arms of grace”

Yet, even so, somehow God’s strength is perfected in my weakness. I don’t presume to understand it, but I will gladly fall upon it…

Time after time: until the faith shall be made sight, and all is set right.

It’s all I can do.

How about you?

What If We Lived In A World Of Kindness

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I don’t normally roll this way, but where Silver Linings Playbook is concerned, I watched the movie before I read the book. The film was intriguing enough, was messy and real enough, that I wanted to read the book.

Then I came across the line highlighted in the picture above. And it wrecked me. You may not think it particularly significant, but the mere notion of a man deliberately, intentionally trying to be kind, instead of just right, fired up the synapses of my tired mind.

It made me sit up in bed.

It made me think of Jesus.

You may not see the connection, but this is un/fortunately how my brain works. On the surface, what does a novel ostensibly about a man with bipolar disorder and/or traumatic brain injury have to do with Jesus?

It’s Pat’s (the protagonist) commitment to try to be kind instead of right–to live differently from the norm–that put me in mind of Jesus. For how did he (Jesus) live?

John chapter one tells us that “the law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.” Grace.And truth. Not just truth (law), but grace, too. Not either/or, but both/and. Moreover, Philippians tells us that Jesus ” who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). Meaning he didn’t assert his rights to his own godhood, but instead “humbled himself, taking the form of a servant.”

He lived rightly, but didn’t assert his rights to be right. Instead, he was kind to those [us] who needed his kindness: sinners. Remember his words to the woman caught in adultery (by the way, where was the guy?): “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” (John chapter 8).

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, we are told that it’s “your kindness which leads us to repentance,” and that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Yet why do we so often get it ass backwards? Oh, we say we believe and teach the Gospel, but where is the kindness of Christ in our message of “sin no more, then come.” There may be truth, but where is the grace? The fact is, our Lord reserved his harshest rebukes for the outwardly religious, but extended his greatest kindnesses to the messed up.

To sinners. Of some such were we. Yet how is it that we get it exactly backwards, and have become so adept at shooting our wounded?

Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be. Let me ask you (let me ask me):

Are you known as a friend of sinners (like Jesus himself was)? Can you imagine with me a world where we were (as Jesus was) very intentional about being kind–instead of right?

Wouldn’t that be an amazing place to be?